On November 13, first-year Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies student, Sefin Stefura, was given the inspirational opportunity of a lifetime after winning tickets to US President Barack Obama’s speech in Halifax. Sefin says he couldn’t believe his eyes when he got the email finding out he had won.
Over the summer, Sefin was encouraged to apply for the contest, a process that involved writing two 500-word essays. The topics, “what would meeting Barack Obama mean to you?” and “if you had unlimited power as Prime Minister for a day, what would you do to help your community?” forced Sefin to think carefully about what is most important to him. For the second prompt, Sefin wrote about banning conversion therapy worldwide. Conversion therapy is the practice of changing one’s sexuality or gender identity through therapy, also known as “Reparative Therapy.” This practice is performed under the guise that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is a mental illness, despite the American Psychological Associations opposition to the practice. “I chose this topic because it didn’t just apply to my community, but the entire country,” he explains. “Banning conversion therapy was the first thing I covered, followed by creating affordable housing, improving healthcare, and implementing a livable minimum wage.” His essay impressed judges, earning him tickets to the exciting event.
Sefin traveled to Halifax to join 9000 other lucky attendees who gathered to hear Obama speak. “It was incredible,” says Sefin. “Hearing him speak was so inspiring. It’s great to see it on a TV screen but to have him there in person was incredible.” Sefin says two specific moments stood out to him at the event, the first being Obama referencing the popular joke “okay, boomer” which sent the crowd into laughter. The second, Sefin says, is when Obama directly addressed the youth leaders in the room. “It felt like he was speaking to me specifically because I was in that bracket,” he explains.
Obama told attendees to embrace the mistakes throughout their journey, telling them it’s okay not to have life figured out by 28. This message impacted Sefin who says despite doing a lot of work at only 18, he struggles to feel accomplished. “It reminded me that I’m doing an incredible amount for someone my age and I need to accept that,” says Sefin. “I left the event feeling inspired to change the country, not just my community! I want to speak across Canada and help others.”
In the meantime, Sefin says he’ll stay busy and keep doing what he’s doing. His main focus is succeeding in University and maintaining his scholarships while he works toward starting a queer-centric webcomic with his partner to provide more queer representation.
We’re so glad Sefin experienced this wonderful opportunity, and know he will carry the inspiration with him to make an impact on the lives of many.