Students For Sustainability Conference – 5 steps to unleashing your potential and inspiring change.

What drives changeIMG_1523? Is it something that we should sit back and wait for or do we all have an active role to play in shaping the future? At a recent “Students for Sustainability” (S4S) conference at the University of Western Sydney, this very question was addressed. Four
Federation University students including myself, our sustainability rep Casey Egan, Luke Morris and Emma (Tillie) Schulz were fortunate enough to attend and
each of us benefited greatly from networking with other students and people from around the country who are passionate about ensuring future life on our infinite planet. Attending the event allowed each of us to recognize something we have probably known all along but often forget when contemplating what seem to be impossible world issues like sustainability and climate change.

In collaborating with other innovative minds and inspirational “keynote speakers”, we realized that individuals like ourselves have the potential to generate hope and facilitate change.

When many individuals initiate changes in the prospect of moving towards a fairer, more equitable world, perhaps we aren’t so doomed after all and the future can be full of promise! And not only can our actions make the world a better place- they can also make our lives more worthwhile and help us to realize what our own individual life purpose may be.

Stephanie Lorenzo- one of the keynote speakers and the CEO of Pro
ject Futures gave a presentation that has really resonated with me. She shared her story about how she had a life changing experience after reading Somaly Mam’s biography about her horrendous experiences of being sold into sexual slavery as a child. In that same year of 2009 Stephanie witnessed human trafficking first hand after cycling through Cambodia and the reality of this shocking injustice became all too real. It was then that Steph realized that although the issue seemed way too big to do anything about, it simply could not be ignored. Consequently Stephanie unleashed her inner potential by establishing Project Futures. Now a successful CEO of the growing charity that raises a tremendous one million dollars annually for anti-trafficking projects, Stephanie is passionate about empowering other young people to engage with their own inner “gifts” to unlock meaning and more importantly, ignite change to create more of a just world.

Stephanie identified for us five key steps to successfully unlock our potentials and for me, I found encouragement not only in the context of leadership and change for a sustainable future, but also in finding general meaning in everyday life and a wider University life context. As students, we could probably all benefit from considering Stephanie’s advice. (The steps she discussed are listed below as well as some points that each step entails.)


  • Finding out what our purpose is.
  • Realizing that the challenges/ problems in our lives may be an opportunity.
  • It’s important not to become overwhelmed by challenges as often they seem too big that we do nothing!
  • Know what you’re about and focus on that.


  • Remember that this can be challenging, hard and take time.
  • Embrace yes (now!)
  • We don’t all need to “reinvent the wheel”. It’s possible that we can seek out help from organizations already out there.


  • It’s important to reach out to other people and promote your cause.
  • If you don’t ask, you don’t get it. (In other words, you can’t do everything yourself and there are people who can help.)
  • In Stephanie’s charity, parties would be thrown so that people could raise money while also having a great time.


  • It’s important to remember why you’re doing it because there will be challenges.
  • She basically told us not to freak out and quit.
  • Remain true to yourself.


  • Steph discussed how often we’re so driven that we feel we have to just jump into the next thing and keep going, but in order to sustain ourselves, we have to be kind to ourselves.

Some final words of advice from Stephanie were to:

  • Be authentic
  • The norm is boring- challenge it.
  • Follow your bliss.IMG_1525

– Jess Powell


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