By Thandiwe Konguavi

Staff Writer

 

When it comes to role models, Philip Domingo has some big shoes to fill: Jesus himself.

 

“I believe we should all be leaders, for example like Jesus, how he became a leader to all other people, how he inspired people to change their faith and become what’s good in society,” said Domingo, who attended his third WE Stand Youth Leadership Summit on March 21 at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

 

The annual gathering aims to engage and inspire young people to make changes personally, locally and globally. This year’s event drew more than 1,500 students.

 

One of the speakers, Chris Koch, was born with no arms or legs. Domingo was inspired by Koch, who is a farmer, professional adventurer and athlete.

 

“With almost no limbs, how he could make a difference as a person and make a difference to other people too, (is inspiring),” said Domingo, a student at St. Joseph High School in Edmonton.

 

Adriana Burns, another student at the school, said she was inspired by Carla Cuglietta, a religious studies teacher and WE Stand co-founder. Cuglietta shared her story of how she was called to a life of service as a young person, leading her to work in countries including Mexico, Costa Rico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, India and Sierra Leone.

 

“Her talking more about her experience through global leadership, starting locally, definitely gives students a realization that they can start locally and broaden out globally,” said Burns, who also volunteers for the WE Stand event.

 

“I just start with change in my own life, and if it impacts other people, that’s what I hope for.”

 

Cuglietta created WE Stand in 2014.

 

“I had visions of this event happening, where I would look out and see a crowd of people and feel like God was really asking me to use my life in this way, to inspire others to live theirs,” she said. “And so I wrote it down.”

 

Five months later, Cuglietta, her husband Tyler Waye, and Edmontonian Sheldon Smart hosted the first WE Stand summit in Edmonton, drawing 1,300 students.  Today, 18 volunteers are taking the youth leadership summit around the world.

 

Other speakers at this year’s Edmonton event included Jesse Lipscombe, leader of the #MakeItAwkward crusade to end racism in the Capital Region; Jeremy Courtney, CEO of Preemptive Love Coalition, which is working toward development and peace in the Middle East; and Gracie Schram, an 18-year-old singer and philanthropist based in Nashville.