On November 14, Ross School Founder Courtney Sale Ross and a group of Ross students were proud to present at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences workshop at the Vatican titled “Children and Sustainable Development: A Challenge for Education.” Mrs. Ross was the impetus for the workshop being created and was named its Honorary President.
The Vatican workshop was a follow-up to a previous conference titled “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility,” held in May 2014. Mrs. Ross was invited as an official observer to that event, and worked with academicians to propose a follow-up meeting that focused on children and education. This latest workshop was the result of that proposal.
The students presented at a session designed to contribute the voices of youth to discussions about sustainability and climate change. They were joined by peers from Italy, France, and Germany, as they spoke in front of some of the most notable minds in education, sustainability thinking, and research.
A main point the students discussed is the need for a shift in mentality about how we think about sustainability. “Everything is interconnected, and one person’s careless action will eventually have a harmful effect on the world around him or her,” said Diego Vanegas ’20, who presented at the conference. A way to bring about change is to educate young people about critical issues at a very early age. “When you are learning 2 + 2, you should also be educated about climate change and global sustainability,” Diego explained.
Mrs. Ross remarked, “I have long advocated that sustainability should be a foundational principle in the way that we teach our children, and in fact it is our ethical and moral obligation to make sure they receive this education. Pope Francis has become a champion of this very important issue, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to contribute. Ensuring our children are prepared to face this new environment is essential, and we must instill in them the desire to create solutions to contribute to this global crisis.”
The students’ participation in the conference aligns with Ross School’s long- held commitment to activism and global citizenship. Malik Basnight ’16, another presenter, said. “We were honored to represent Ross students and to add our voice to this critical dialogue.”
Other key discussion topics included the fate of future generations, altering the ecosystem, clean energy, animal extinction, decrease in hospitable land, loss of finite resources, and quality of life for the poor and vulnerable.
The students received a standing ovation in recognition of their work and for helping to move the discussion about sustainability and education forward.
“This crisis demands that we actively engage and do better than our individual best. A collective response is necessary,” said Kwazi Nkomo, a postgraduate student at Ross.
Prior to the workshop, the students had an opportunity to tour Rome’s historical sites, including the Colosseum, Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Shanshan He ’16 said it was incredible to visit the subjects of their studies at Ross, adding, “Overall, the entire experience in Rome was powerful and meaningful, and it’s wonderful to play a role in helping to bring about positive change in our global and local communities.”