During the October holidays, a group of five Year 11 boys, Cameron Norbury, Hamish McPhie, Sam Johnston, Jack Simmons and myself, with Mrs Barnier and Mr Buntine, attended the Senior International Round Square Conference in the Untied States. ‘Conference’ isn’t really the right word, though, because it’s really a gathering, pretty social at times, of 600 students, from every school imaginable, looking to become leaders, looking to reflect on global and local issues and looking to make change.
Our trip began with a 19-hour flight to New Orleans. This first week, part of the pre-conference tour, consisted of meeting new people, being shown the local sites, hearing survivor stories from Hurricane Katrina and pitching in with some community service at the Boys and Girls Club, an organisation for disadvantaged African American and Hispanic kids. New Orleans is the jazz and blues capital of the world, so knowing this we had to watch a few street performances. The city is pretty much as it’s depicted in popular culture: raw, pretty poor, culturally diverse and with blues and jazz littering the streets. It was amazing.
Meeting the students from other schools was great. When you’re dropped into a room of 100 strangers, you don’t know what to expect. But after talking to many people, we finally heard that familiar Aussie twang before we got to know students from Denmark, South Africa and Canada. The first day in the group was very awkward with people not knowing what to say or how to introduce themselves but things changed very quickly.
Our time at the Boys and Girls Club was an experience in itself. It included painting, cleaning, playing, joking around and learning things about other countries. NFL was also big on the agenda and we even watched a high school game, played in front of 15,000 people.
We then arrived in Boca Raton in Miami, one of the richest suburbs in the whole country. The affluence, and cosmetic surgery, was amazing, with some students having Porches, Ferraris and BMW’s for first cars.
All Round Square students were billeted out with members of Saint Andrew’s School community.
“Waves of Change” was the theme for the conference with the central idea being that collective power is able to achieve much more than any individual, so we were encouraged to reflect on the potential of us, the youth, to make change together. We listened to some wonderful speakers and were encouraged by the actions of several young entrepreneurs who also made us see that the gap between an idea and making it reality is really very small. We were also urged to reflect on service and whether we could do more than just donate money to a charity. It is something everyone at TAS should reflect on, now and into the future. How can you best serve your community?
The conference was all about the waves of change through activities based on the Round Square ideals of Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service and it’s why, among other things, we all completed community service, took care of the environment and completed an activities day. The greatest was the activities days while going to a “beach”, or a Miami version of one, with lots of new friends.
The trip for all was a great place to build friendships and to be inspired. It was an adventure for us all and one that formed indelible memories. Many thanks to Mrs Barnier and Mr Buntine for taking time out of their lives and school to take us on such an exciting trip and also to all the people in the Round Square community for their organisation and help throughout the two weeks.
Next year’s conference is in Jordan, in the Middle East, and we encourage the Year 11 boys of 2014 to become involved.