Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A young man with a Golden Heart: Sean-Ryan Thomas story- Global Youth Leaders Conference

Summer time is a time school age students and teachers look forward to. One student with a heart for children used his summer to not only have fun and travel, but also to develop his leadership skills and pursue his interests. As school re-opens, he is gearing up to share his experiences and embrace new opportunities.

The name Sean-Ryan Thomas may be very familiar to some. Sean-Ryan and his sister Channing Thomas were previously in the news for their support of the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation. They kindly shared the moneys they earned from gum ball sales to help repair the hearts of children with heart disease. Their effort demonstrated to students and adults that no amount or money or time is ever too small to help repair a heart.

This summer, Sean- Ryan attended the Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) in Europe; Prague, Vienna and Berlin. The Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) is a unique nonpartisan leadership development program that brings together outstanding young people from around the world to build critical leadership skills in a global context. The opportunity allows students to explore international career options, expand their global thinking and embrace the global leadership styles that are in high demand from colleges and employers. Students who attend this conference are selected based on recommendations from teachers, and counselors for their scholastic achievements and demonstrated leadership ability. Qualifying students can also receive college credit through George Mason University.

All of the students participating in the GYLC are considered young global ambassadors. As a young man who aspires to someday be a neonatologist (provide medical care to newborn infants), Sean-Ryan looked forward to meeting with many other bright minds from The Bahamas. Surprisingly to Sean-Ryan and his parents, there were no other representatives from The Bahamas at the conference with him. So, Sean-Ryan did his best to not only represent the Bahamas, but also his interest in neonatology and his desire to see no child die from illnesses, such as heart disease. When given the opportunity in the Austrian parliament, he asked three Austrian leaders about the steps they took or would take, both globally and locally, to achieve zero infant mortality by 2015. Sean-Ryan admits, despite being in a seemingly political arena, he was happy to be able to taper his concerns. Additionally, this experience allowed him and other young adults to dress the part and act the part of ambassadors. For Sean Ryan, he had appreciation for this, as he saw many cultural differences in areas such as dress, assertiveness, communications, food consumption etc.

The opportunity to attend the GYLC afforded Sean-Ryan and other participants many other benefits. Travel to Europe was one such benefit. Despite travelling to Europe before, Sean-Ryan was excited about the chance to travel independently and meet students from over 100 countries. He could explore art, music, history, and much more. Additionally he could study in and explore significant power and cultural centers, thereby providing perspectives and a solid foundation for his position as a global leader in his intended field of study. Additionally, participants were able to exchange ideas with their peers, and also with some of the worlds top business leaders, policy analyst, lobbyists, journalists, diplomats and academics in the challenging and dynamic environments.  Some of the speakers that Sean-Ryan was able to listen to included: Sonja Ablinge, Magistrate Silvia Granberger, Dr. Andrew Karlsbock, Magistrate Allev Korum and Stefan Petzner.

This experience afforded Sean Ryan gave Sean Ryan knowledge, empowerment and academic advancement. Sean Ryan recently received correspondence indicating that he had received two college credits from George Mason University. These credits could be applied to studies at that university and are also transferable. As a 10th grader, this was great news to Sean-Ryan. The ability to have college credits that are useful and transferable makes a great impression on a college application and helps with better college placement.

There were many other highlights of Syan-Ryan’s scheduled visit to Europe. Sean-Ryan had the red carpet rolled out for him from the first day. He and the other students received an official invitation from the mayor and governor of Vienna to attend a lunch in Vienna. This was an opportunity to eat authentic Austrian food. Additionally, they were guests at welcome dinners in Vienna, Prague and Berlin. Sean-Ryan also had the ability to attend a presentation on “Drugs and crime”, with a focus on The Caribbean. For Sean-Ryan, it was very interesting to have an international organization objectively make a presentation on what is occurring in his region. Last but not least, the students were allowed to live, learn and enjoy life. Sean-Ryan was able to stand on both sides of the Berlin Wall. Also, they were allowed to shop.

According to Sean Ryan, “I attended the Global Young Leaders Conference this summer in three Eastern European Countries- Vienna, Austria; Prague, Czech Republic; and Berlin, Germany. Having seminars and lectures given by diplomats, humanitarians and other world leaders was the highlight of the GYLC. Attending the Global Young leaders Conference, I have become more empathetic and open minded in my awareness of customs and cultures around the world. At the Global Young Leaders Conference one does not only learn how to be a political leader; one learns how to apply leadership skills in all aspects of life. To other students interested in Global Young Leaders Conference, I highly recommend being focused in school, setting goals and working towards achieving those goals. My foundation and support comes from The Almighty God, my parents - Dr. Carlos Thomas and Mrs. Loretta Thomas, and my sisters Channing and Courtney. GYLC is a program I would recommend to any student who desires to see the world, be a part of discussions of global importance, have the opportunity to meet world leaders and have a multicultural experience”. 

Syan-Ryan’s parents, counselor and The Heart Ball Committee have expressed their pride in Sean Ryan’s accomplishments. According to Ingrid Sears, PR Officer of The Heart Ball Committee, “Sean-Ryan is a fine example of what young persons in The Bahamas can do. At the age of fifteen, Sean-Ryan has a desire to see improvements in health care, with a special interest in reducing infant mortality. Heart disease is the number one killer of persons around the world, regardless of age. Heart care is not cheap and every penny does count. The Annual Heart Ball is the major fund raiser of The Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation. The Foundation uses the funds to help repair the hearts of children. Steps to reduce infant mortality can be considered steps to reduce the number of children who will suffer from heart disease”.

Students wishing to join the fight against infant mortality and heart disease can take simple steps like Sean Ryan did. You can make a donation to The Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation. Also, students can join the Bahamas Heart Association for a small donation of $5. Funds raised help to defray the cost of heart repair for other children. As the school year starts, students are encouraged to get involved in community and leadership exercises. The fight against heart disease can be your first step.