When we asked  Alexis Lahorra and Dexter Nyuurnibe what it was like to  speak on a stage that Michelle Obama (FLOTUS herself) had graced just hours before, Dexter’s answer was emphatic: “No lie, I was scared to death!”

In April 2016, Alexis and Dexter flew to Washington, D.C. with Jack.org staff members Sarah Mughal and Eric Windeler to speak at the World Bank and World Health Organization Summit on Mental Health. They prepped for weeks in advance.

“I practiced my speech every day using a voice recorder given to me by Bob Ezrin at the Bell Let’s Talk Dinner,” says Alexis. “He gave all of the students at the event voice recorders so that we can share our stories and do something creative. I listened and re-recorded my speech everywhere I went.”
Sitting next to each other on the plane, Alexis and Dexter felt like they were living the dream. “We kept thinking, ‘Is this real?’”

Once they arrived in D.C, the nerves and excitement kicked in. “It was humbling to know that we were given an opportunity to sit at a table that young people rarely get called to. I mean, how many youth my age can say that they were able to use their mental health story to make a case in front of international ministers and diplomats — let alone an African Canadian who was homeless just a couple of years ago,” says Dexter.
The summit ended with countries committing to actions that directly benefit youth. Alexis, Dexter, and the rest of the Jack.org team were very well received, and caught the attention of people like Emmy winner and 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan. “This opportunity showed people in power that we aren’t just 'leaders of tomorrow,' we are leaders of today. We should and must have a say in how our society helps us achieve our dreams.”

Brittany Danishevsky is a student at the University of Guelph studying Psychology and Neuroscience. She shares her story in hopes...