Educator profile

For Matthew P., EF Summits are about the journey within the journey

Matthew P.

Group Leader, FL


Matthew P. isn’t afraid to frustrate his students. In fact, he kind of loves it.

He knows they might not always like it. But he also knows that any feelings a frustrated student has while participating in an EF Global Leadership Summit with him won’t last long. And, most importantly, they’re always worth it in the end.

“They come back as better people 100% of the time,” says Matthew. The change he sees in students is why he hasn’t missed a Summit since he started going in 2014 and isn’t planning to skip one anytime soon.

“I just love, I won’t lie, seeing the frustration that turns into elation later on,” says Matthew. “You come back, and you have all these stories of change. And just seeing where the kids are now, I know it’s worth it.”

At Summits, students are tasked with creating and presenting real-world solutions to global challenges. They’ve got to figure out how to work together with other kids from around the globe, find their voice to share their own perspective, and collaborate on topics from environmental change to society’s relationship with technology.

EF Summits bring students together from around the world to share their ideas with one another.

Lessons in leadership

Matthew has always had an affinity for learning about leadership and helping shape future leaders. In college, he was involved in leadership programs. His blossoming interest in teaching led him to facilitate leadership workshops for his fraternity. As he began to teach professionally, he continued to facilitate similar workshops for his high school students. Eventually, he grew the work into an academy within his current school in Orlando, FL, where he’s focused on imparting leadership experiences and training by putting students in scenarios where, Matthew says, “they have to figure it out.”

That deep history with leadership programs allowed Matthew to immediately appreciate how the immersive nature of each EF Summit makes it a unique event. The design-thinking process, emphasis on collaboration, and thorough attention to detail had him hooked. And the fact that there are real stakes, Matthew believes, makes a big difference on students.

The ideas that teams work on can go on to become featured in the Nobel Prize Museum in Sweden. That gets students excited, increasing their sense of ambition and pride in their work.

Matthew and his students in Iceland for the 2016 EF Summit, “The Future of Energy.”

Witnessing student growth in real time

The various elements of EF Global Leadership Summits combine to create an event Matthew believes is unparalleled. But they can also create a frustrated student or two over the course of the event. In Matthew’s eyes, though, those moments provide valuable life experience.

At one Summit, he remembers a student of his having a tough day interacting with her team. She felt that no one was listening to her or her ideas. So, Matthew pulled her aside to talk. “I said, ‘Are you listening to them? I hear you and I feel for you, and I know that’s frustrating. But can you honestly say you’re also listening to them equally?’ It was a big learning moment because she kind of gave me this look of, ‘No, I’m not listening to them.”

Fast forward to the next day, when that same, previously frustrated student ran up to him in the Summit hall, practically dragging him to see her team’s project. “I was like, is this the same girl from yesterday? Because I’m sensing a lot of cooperation and love here. She learned how to go from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ And she learned how to distribute credit as a leader.”

Summit gives them the opportunity to put those real-life skills to the test. They learn something about themselves and come home as different people.

Matthew knows Summits make an impact on students because he hears them talking about their experiences and drawing upon the lessons they learned long after they’ve returned home. He’s had a student take up a job teaching karate to fully fund their own return trip to Summit the following year. He’s seen a student come home so filled with confidence they were subsequently elected class president. He even has one student who, years afterwards, was so moved by the experience that they went on to apply for a position in the U.S. State Department.

That type of growth, both in the moment and well beyond, is why Matthew intends to keep bringing students back to Summits. “EF has really gone above and beyond with the Summit to create what I would argue is the next pinnacle of youth leadership conferences. I have not found another event that will give them the same amount of worthwhile experience.”

Matthew has seen those experiences play out enough times now to know the frustrations his students will sometimes feel in the middle of their Summit will be worth it in the end. “Summit gives them the opportunity to put those real-life skills to the test. They learn something about themselves and come home as different people.”

Watch today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders

Each EF Global Leadership Summit is immersive travel, meets three-day student leadership conference, meets change you can see and feel—and it doesn’t stop there.

Explore Summits

Jake Minton

Jake is a copywriter at EF. His bucket list includes (but is by no means limited to) snowboarding in Japan, exploring the streets of Nairobi, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.