Tonight, the International Emerging Leaders gathered for a final dinner after a week of anxious introductions, hard work, and newfound friendships. Mr. Colon opened the dinner, congratulating the delegates on their collaboration and saying, “Although you were all from different countries… you were able to work together and overcome those barriers as if they didn’t exist.”

Some of the speeches were funny. Laughter resonated as Shantanu B., from India, said, “When I first found out about [the International Emerging Leaders Conference], I was slightly, okay, very stressed out, and I told [my mother] that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to [come], but really, I’m very, very happy no one listened to me, because I was being an idiot at the time, and I’m very happy to be here.”

Some of the speeches were sad. Mrs. Sisisky inspired, encouraged, and bittersweetened  every participant when she said, “This kind of experience… may not happen again. For the most part, when older people come together, they come to represent themselves, and not their people… [so] they fight… It’s very rare to find true collaboration… It’s very rare to truly work on something together.”

All of the speeches were grateful. Atlegang M. (South Africa) spoke to the delegate’s friendships when she said, “I can’t believe that it’s been a week already… Although we had language barriers, we overcame them, [for] communication also involves listening, even if that means taking a back seat… It’s not about me, it’s about the rest of the group… Thank you for your home, your food, and your warmth.” Sinan F. (Lebanon) expressed his own thankfulness when he said, “[The International Emerging Leaders Conference] was truly the best experience of my life… All of the host families took us in as one of their own family members… I’m going to remember every single one of you guys, and I’m really going to miss you guys… I love you guys.” Lastly, Mrs. Sisisky proudly said, “You have proven to me that you can do anything… We really have tried to change our school through this program, [and] know that every one of you has made an impact on our school… And we really appreciate you doing that for us… Because you have made a big impact representing your countries so well.”

Finally, the delegates’ speeches, like the delegates themselves, looked towards the future with hope and optimism. Mrs. Sisisky wished the participants to “find something that [they] love and make something happen in the world.” And, poignantly, Tori S. ended her speech, saying, “My bellas taught me that ciao means hello and goodbye; so tonight, when I get on the bus, I’m going to say ciao.”

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