EF Student Empowerment Panelists empowering the next generation of leaders

Global Leadership Summit

Empowering the next generation of leaders at the 2023 Summit

A highlight of recent EF Global Leadership Summits is the Student Empowerment Panel, where attendees hear from young leaders who are driving forces for global change. By connecting with their peers’ inspiring (and relatable) stories, students start to see how they, too, already have the power and skills they need to change the world.

In July 2023, high-schoolers from all over came together in Berlin, Germany to collaborate on that year’s EF Summit theme: Creating a Sustainable Future. Not only did students head home with enough stories to last the summer, but they also returned with newfound leadership skills, experience in cross-cultural collaboration, and inspiration to make a difference. And yes, this transformation happens for attendees over the course of just one trip—through design thinking challenges, a specially curated international tour, and engaging sessions like EF’s Student Empowerment Panel.

Ahmed Badr empowering the next generation of leaders

Ahmed inspires cross-cultural collaboration through storytelling

For him, sustainability means empathy—both for the environment and the communities around us. As a former Iraqi refugee, he often struggled to find belonging after moving to the United States in 2008, and didn’t know how to claim all of his different identities while he was growing up.

His first step: A family friend suggested that Ahmed should journal about how he was feeling.

When it clicked: After attending a journalism conference in high school, Ahmed gained the courage to begin publishing his writing. He also felt inspired to lift up the voices around him, so he created Narratio—a space for young people who have been displaced to share their life stories.


Quote from Ahmed Badr empowering the next generation of leaders

At Summit, Ahmed led a workshop that felt, on the surface, like a writing exercise. But it was equally focused on listening and creating space for everyone’s stories to live side by side. Students contributed to a collective poem titled “Representations,” which you can hear Ahmed read below.

Natalia Trevino Amaro empowering the next generation of leaders

Natalia empowers students to be curious and follow their passions

Growing up in Indiana, it never crossed Natalia’s mind that she could turn her love of styling and designing clothes into a career—until her high school sewing teacher introduced her to fashion schools in New York City and Los Angeles.

Her first step: Shortly after Natalia moved to NYC for fashion school, she overheard classmates discussing sustainability—something she had never connected to the fashion industry. So Natalia decided to dig into her favorite clothing brands and was horrified at what she found. “It takes 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans, which is what a human needs for 10 years of drinking water,” she explains.

When it clicked: Natalia moved back to Indiana during COVID-19. “I had a degree in fashion design in the middle of a global crisis, I felt useless,” she reflects. But with the rise of TikTok and a newfound passion for sustainable fashion, Natalia started making her own clothes and promoting them on social media. She also began her podcast, “Unfiltered Fashion Talks,” where she continues to advocate for sustainability in the fashion industry.

Quote from Natalia Trevino Amaro about empowering the next generation of leaders

Check out some of Natalia’s handmade and sustainable designs for her slow fashion brand, NTA.











Aidan Reilly empowering the next generation of leaders

Aidan believes the best leaders are also the best listeners

He didn’t start college thinking one day he’d become a successful entrepreneur. Aidan was actually studying to be a documentary filmmaker.

Through his work with the Farmlink Project, Aidan Reilly is empowering the next generation of leaders

The Farmlink Project is a student-led, voluntary movement that works to reduce waste in the food system. They’ve provided 100+ million pounds of nutritious food to communities facing hunger in the U.S. to date. (Photo from farmlinkproject.org)

His first step: During COVID-19, Aidan connected with a food bank in his community that was running out of food. Then, after reading an article in The New York Times that chronicled farmers’ experiences throwing out fresh produce, Aidan wondered if these two problems could actually help solve one another.

When it clicked: Aidan and his friends decided they would try to connect farmers with extra produce to communities that needed it. They built The Farmlink Project by listening to and understanding the specific needs of every individual farm and food bank they worked with. Each case is different, so Aidan’s business strategy includes space for failure. “If you can set up a culture where people feel comfortable to fail quickly and often, you’re going to learn way more,” Aidan reflects.

Quote from Aidan Reilly about empowering the next generation of leaders
Empowering the next generation of leaders

None of our 2023 Student Empowerment Panelists started their journeys saying they were going to change the world. They just let their personal passions gradually steer them into new ways of thinking—and they encourage young people who want to make a difference to do the same.

Empowering the next generation of leaders

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Maddie Poulin

Maddie is a copywriter at EF. She loves dissecting movies and TV shows, making playlists for every mood, staying active, and dreaming about her next trip.