Branson hosts Youth Forum: Education Reimagined — Brilliance Redefined


Jeffrey Huang

Eva Lacy, Nathan Kwei and Finn Dossey helped lead Youth Forum, a multi-day conference focused on topics ranging from climate change, to business, to equality for all races and genders.

By Emma Casaudoumecq

Between April 28 to May 1, Branson hosted the Youth Forum: Education Reimagined — Brilliance Redefined, a conference organized with the help of both teachers and students, for the Branson community as well as other schools.

The Youth Forum included keynote speakers that the audience watched  in a webinar format and workshops that were a bit more interactive for participants, with topics ranging from climate change, to business, to equality for all races and genders. These activities had the goal of inspiring students to take initiatives.

“One, as an adult, I wanted to find a way to empower young people to get involved in their leadership. Two, the topic of diversity and education is obviously something that I am involved in, here at Branson, and I wanted to see what young people could create in having this type of event that was more youth-centered,” said JuanCarlos Arauz, director of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as one of the organizers for the Youth Forum.

As the Youth Forum was centered around empowering young people, many students were involved in planning and arranging this event.

“It was a partnership. We asked the students how the schedule should look. The student leaders actually sent a survey out to all students saying, ‘What kind of speakers would you want? What kind of day would you want?’ and getting the feedback directly from the students is then what I did as an adult to help make the schedule fit accordingly. … I want to give a shoutout to all the eighteen student leaders,” Arauz said.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the initiation of the Youth Forum.

“I think [the Youth Forum] would have happened, but I don’t think it would have happened this year. I think the pandemic created a sense of urgency that was not there before,” he said.

In order to have many inspiring keynote and workshop speakers, the Youth Forum organizational team had to reach out to many people.

“A lot of it was just, ‘Oh, who do you know who is passionate about these topics?’ … A lot of it was teacher and student outreach,” said Sophie Liu, a sophomore who was in charge of program design, helped lead a workshop and was an MC for the Youth Forum itself.

Zina Vidalakis, a freshman who viewed and participated in the Youth Forum, enjoyed the experience of being able to learn about different topics from diverse opinions during the keynote presentations.

“I thought that they all had a unique perspective which was interesting, and they weren’t all just repeating the same thing. They all had something to add,” she said. 

However, there are some improvements that the organizers of the Youth Forum believe could be made if a future event occurs.

“Sort of navigating, I know Branson says this a lot, to teach students how to think, not what to think,” Liu said.

Furthermore, in the future, students hope that a possible future Youth Forum could include more events that offer increased participation.

“I think that maybe [the Youth Forum] could be a little bit less lecture-based because I have a hard time paying attention for a long period of time, and there is a lot of information that I don’t want to miss,” Vidalakis said.

Vidalakis also looks forward to having the opportunity to hear from more, empowering speakers in a future Youth Forum.

“I think that it would be beneficial for Branson to host another [Youth Forum] because it’s a unique experience to learn about things that you don’t usually get to learn about,” Vidalakis said.