This past weekend 20 Polish high school students from across the GTA met with around 30 mentors: recent grads, professionals, graduate students—curtly, people who had just gone through the same things that await these greenhorns. The entire event (“Iskra”, or “spark”) was a raging success. I invite you to brief through the 150-picture gallery to get a feel of the fresh vibe present throughout the entire thing. Below I’ll just post the quick speech delivered at its commencement, digging deeper into the point of this whole project. But first, this:
And there you have it. Next up: the speech.
Sometime in these next 5 years, the image on the left will happen to you. It happened to us and, trust me, you’ll need a bit of support in the rocky road ahead. It might be you’re called to jury duty, it might be you have to file your own income taxes for the first time, it might be you need to take out a massive loan when you suddenly realize, oh my goodness, I am an adult. Every moment hereafter will be you scrambling to wing adult things like paying student loans, buying cars, getting a mortgage, raising kids. And the entire time you’ll feel like below.
Welcome to adulthood.
We at PISK started the Iskra Project because we wish we had something just like this going into university — a network of people that had gone through ahead of us who could help us out from time to time. We didn’t, so we built PISK on shoulders bigger than ours, and now we offer you those same shoulders (plus our own!) to stand on. I’m sure you all feel super nervous right now and are completely unsure about everything around you. Good. The best advice I can give you is to be vocal, be heard, ask questions, make sure everyone knows you by your first name at the end of this weekend. And hey, don’t let this end there: carry this habit on throughout life. Your career will thank you.
You all enter this room with something unique: every one of you is a bright, young individual with the world at your feet. But there are billions like you. You are all talented and en route to becoming educated. But again, there are millions in the same boat. You all are geographically blessed, living in one of the richest, safest countries in the world, and many of you also have a secondary citizenship good for chasing down further opportunities in Europe. Again though, for every one of you there are a thousand others. So what makes you special, what sets you apart? Simple. Take a look around you: support. Community. For one, your parents, the people who brought you here. We know that of your own accord you wouldn’t have even thought about crawling out of bed on a Saturday morning for anything less than Polish school, and even that would be reluctantly at best. That your parents care about your future enough to spend money to bring you here shows they are passionate about where you’re headed and will be there to help you all along the way. Which, if you think about it, is actually a pretty solid retirement plan for them.
For two: us. Family can only help you so far, eventually you’ll need mentors to guide you down whatever path you take. We might not be those exact mentors, but chances are pretty good that we know someone who can, all the while giving friendly advice and stories of experience painfully learned along the way. Add to this the fact that we all share a particularly special story and you can speedily see how this becomes important. When you hit university and adulthood, you will quickly note how important community is, and how much tougher the road ahead stands if you’re going down it alone.
Wherever life does take you, remember this: there is more than one way to hold a flag… but it’s always more fun holding it with another.
Full event archives are online, including some history, team bios, event schedule, promo videos, 2011-12 photos (that’s right, this project is actually in its third year!), and a brief post on why we do this. We also have a glowing interview posted with the Cosmopolitan Review, which I really recommend reading to find out more about the philosophy of this movement. The full Iskra 2013 delegate handbook is available, as is our 2013 sponsorship package.