Empowering Innovation & Making A Difference: A Student Perspective

Marc Sgro, HTS Student
HTS Senior School student, Marc Sgro, has been asked to write a blog for the Future Design School. In his first post, Marc reflects on his workshop at FDS and what he'll research for his senior independent study this year: designing a solution to provide support for abandoned LGBTQ2+ youth. Here is Marc's post.

On Thursday, September 29th, I had the honour to travel to the MaRS Discovery District to meet with the incredibly educated and exceptionally skilled team known as Future Design School facilitators. FDS is a company based in Toronto that “enables creative leadership through design education and immersive entrepreneurial experience.” My hope was to leave FDS at the end of the day with an issue I wanted to spend my year studying and resolving for my Interdisciplinary course back at school.

When I first arrived, I was greeted by the excited smile on Ms Sandra Nagy’s face. She welcomed me with open arms and was thrilled to learn more about my personality, how my brain worked, and what ideas I had “cooking on the burners.” Shortly after settling into my desk, I was introduced to Ms Leslie McBeth, an educator and innovator just like Sandra. The idea behind this whole day was to help me capture all the thoughts in my head by combining problems that stood out to me with things I was truly passionate about.

When you tell a young mind like mine to come up with problems that were either affecting me personally, or the society around me, the ideas wouldn’t stop jumping out of my head. Leslie had given me sticky notes and told me to “write a new problem every second; don’t analyze it, just write it.” Once my time was up, I was surprised to be seated in front of maybe 30 problems. These problems ranged from child hunger, sexual assault in schools, international politics, and as widespread as girls having access to an education.

Now I was told to choose the problem that truly stood out to me and then something I loved. I choose my sticky note with “Abandoned LGBTQ2+ youth” on it, and realized something I truly loved was equality and happiness. Within the first ten minutes of being at FDS I had already grasped a topic I knew I was passionate about and truly cared for. Both Leslie and Sandra kept mentioning how by the end of the session, I would have an issue that I truly cared about and would be ready to spend my year working toward proposing a resolution. I simply didn’t believe them, maybe I would leave with some ideas, but definitely not one single problem. What surprises me, even to this moment in time, is that I did, in fact leave with a topic I truly cared about and have decided to spend my year studying.

The big question I had after finding my issue was “how in the world am I going to fix this?!” which was answered by an activity led by Leslie. This activity, crazy 8s, gave you 40 seconds to fill out 8 boxes with ideas on how to fix this issue. My sharpie violently created a storm upon my paper and left me after exactly 192 seconds with an idea and a plan that could possibly save thousands of LGBTQ2+ kids who have been thrown out of their homes and abandoned by their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Frankly, I was shocked!

Something that creates so many sub-issues like suicide, assault, drug addiction, and more could possibly be solved by what had been drawn on my paper. My messy, disorganized paper could possibly save lives. Now of course there is the chance that what I ended up with on that paper would be complete trash and lead me to nothing. Although, Leslie and Sandra made it very clear to me that not all ideas and solutions are ignited after the first shot, or the second, or maybe even after the fiftieth. They come at different times, and are sparked by different thoughts and experiences. This was important advice to keep in mind while fuelling my ideas, but also while working on the rest of this project.

I have already come across errors in my plans and thoughts that make no sense, and would maybe make the original issue worse. When a wall comes up in the middle of your path, it will for sure set you off, but with the advice that FDS left me with I feel confident trying new ideas that may pave a new path. This is something I will continue to remember during the course of my studies and quite frankly, throughout life.

If Thomas Edison or the Wright brothers, for example, just gave up after hitting a bump in the road while trying to create something futuristic, they would have never created such innovative solutions that have changed life as we know it. Another great piece of advice I learned from Sandra and Leslie was to never judge your ideas. When brainstorming, whether it’s for finding an issue like I did, or even planning your friend’s birthday party, don’t judge what you come up with.

We are so fast as individuals to judge our ideas and put ourselves down. We create this destructive bubble around ourselves that eats up everything we think of which leaves us insecure and unhappy. This was the idea behind the crazy 8s activity. Because of the time restraint on each box, there was no time to stop and judge your idea, all you could do was draw what came to your mind. That is the core of innovative thinking at Future Design School. No judgments or second thoughts, just passion and ideas.

What I learned during my day at FDS is not only a lesson for this project, but a life lesson. A lesson that we can all remind ourselves of everyday. I would like to thank Sandra and Leslie and all of FDS for providing me with the tools and motivation to ignite my imagination and the innovative part of my brain. I plan to use your wisdom and advice in every step I take towards providing safe housing for LGBTQ2+ youth who have been rejected at home while teaching and encouraging their families to love and accept them, alongside creating safe and accepting places in our current society.