By Joseph Conciatori, Creative Spirit Alumni, Marketing Content Writer at Navitend
The 2022 kick off YOUNGA by BridgingTheGap Ventures on Wednesday, September 28, bringing together youth delegates from around the globe for two inspiring virtual discussions. In “Inclusion for All – Technology for All”, sixty delegates – including yours truly – participated in a master class hosted by Ruh Global Impact founder/CEO and BillionStrong
co-founder Debra Ruh and BillionStrong’s other co-founder, David Perez.
We cannot spark a movement if we simply sit back and let others talk. At the start of the session, Debra remembered her childhood in Virginia, when she was always told to “be quiet and let the grown-ups talk”. However, we all have a voice that we must use to create positive, meaningful change and instill pride in those with disabilities. Debra and David created BillionStrong to be that voice, helping break down barriers for the disabled community.
David then outlined Ruh Global Impact’s mission at the Kick Off YOUNGA, which includes designing handicapped-accessible workplaces and encouraging corporations to include the disabled in their hiring process, and in general creating opportunities for disabled people to pursue successful and meaningful careers.
Debra and David then shifted their emphasis to their personal experiences. David began by mentioning that during his childhood in Costa Rica, he and his brothers were diagnosed with ADHD. However, David is the only one among them who takes pride in his diagnosis. Debra then explained that her daughter has Down syndrome, to which others responded by showing their sympathy for her instead of celebrating her uniqueness. I resonated well with their insights, mentioning in the group chat that I have Aspergers and therefore have faced my fair share of challenges as well. I also agree with their sentiments that one can be part of the disabled community at any time, and no one is alone if they struggle with mental health issues.
As the discussion continued, during the kick off YOUNGA, youth delegate Wowo from South Africa shared her insights about the differences between disabled individuals in rural regions of Africa versus those in rural areas of the United States. She then described her experiences working with young women who have previously been disadvantaged, especially in her native South Africa. Wowo then described that unlike rural residents in the U.S. or Europe, for example, rural residents in Africa do not have the same access to technology. This places them at a global disadvantage, especially if they have disabilities. However, another South African delegate, Dhruti, mentioned that her country is primed for investing in low-cost technology. In my mind, I saw this as an equalizer, giving young South Africans with disabilities a platform they can use to let their voice be heard – not only in their country, but on the global stage. After all, the goal of inclusion is for everyone to hear your voice, even if they have never heard the information before.
Three hours after the first discussion ended, I then joined my fellow delegates for “Neuroscience By Youth, For Youth: The New Frontier”. Hosted by Chinmayi Balusu, founder and CEO of Simply Neuroscience, an organization promoting interdisciplinary neuroscience education, outreach, and awareness in 119 countries worldwide, this engaging discussion highlighted the various career opportunities available within the field. After introducing herself, Chinmayi invited us to use the Mentimeter, where we entered words and phrases we associated
with neuroscience. I then typed the first terms that came to mind, such as “brain”, “science,” and “study,” among others. My fellow delegates also shared the first words that came to their minds. This exercise demonstrates that we all have a different understanding of neuroscience, including abstract thoughts as well as the field’s biological aspects. Chinmayi then mentioned that neuroscience has been around for thousands of years, before sharing a quote from neuroscientist Dr. Konrad Kordin. Dr. Kordin said that “the human brain produces as much data in 30 seconds as the Hubble Space Telescope has produced in its lifetime,” which I found fascinating.
I was also quite fascinated when Chinmayi began speaking about neuromarketing, a niche field in which neuroscientists analyze the psychology behind targeted ads for products we would buy on Amazon, such as fuzzy socks. Having taken a consumer behavior course in college, I was eager to learn more about neuromarketing and other similar opportunities in the field.
Chinmayi then continued her presentation during the kick off YOUNGA by outlining the various career opportunities available for neuroscientists, not only in health and medicine and academia, but also business and law, creative work, communication, and government. In addition to neuromarketing and neuroentrepreneurship, I was most interested in the communications and creative aspects. For example, as Chinmayi described, scientific journalism is an avenue neuroscientists can pursue, as well as creating advocacy and awareness campaigns geared toward the general public.
Furthermore, I was quite intrigued by how some neuroscientists consult with filmmakers and musicians to provide analysis for musical scores in films.
Once Chinmayi had finished outlining the various career paths available to us in neuroscience, my fellow delegates and I divided ourselves into breakout rooms for small group discussion. I then struck up a conversation with Karla, a youth delegate from Minnesota, and we exchanged ideas for several minutes. I began by suggesting a 5K/10K run for suicide prevention awareness to be held each September, with events held in cities worldwide like New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo. Karla then proposed a music-related event to be held during the holiday season in December, which I also liked. I agreed with her sentiment that music can lift spirits, making a concert at a venue like NYC’s Beacon Theatre an ideal platform for mental health awareness and neuroscience education.
We then discussed the benefits of creating and sharing mental health awareness-related content on social media during the kick off YOUNGA, not just established platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but also emerging platforms like TikTok. Furthermore, my fellow delegates and I agreed that we must make science – especially neuroscience – more accessible to the general public if we want to be a force for positive, meaningful change. Finally, we returned to the main chat, where youth delegate Bradley shared an idea he had brought up in another breakout room. He suggested augmented reality (AR) as a way to break down complex information and simplify how we can learn about the brain, providing us with a more comprehensive learning experience than simply reading neuroscience textbooks. Finally, Chinmayi concluded our discussion by stating that we are the next generation of leaders in neuroscience, including scientists, physicians, entrepreneurs, ethicists, artists, communicators, and advocates.
Signing out of Zoom after the discussion, I felt enlightened and empowered to use my newfound knowledge about neuroscience and technology for inclusion, providing a much-needed voice for myself and others in the disabled community to spark positive change.