International Sikh Youth Symposium 2019 held in Dayton & Cincinnati, Ohio

Participants show great enthusiasm at the event

By: Sameep Singh Gumtala

Dayton, Ohio : The three-day annual International Sikh Youth Symposium under the aegis of Sikh Youth Alliance of North America (SYANA) was jointly held at Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio in USA.

The programs held at the Sikh Society of Dayton and the Sikh Center of Dayton Gurdwara were attended by 56 youth from USA & Canada. A banquet and special program in honor of Regional winners at Holiday Inn hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio.

According to Kuldeep Singh, national convener of the Symposium and SYANA, Sikh Youth Symposium has been run by SYANA since year 2000. This is an annual public speaking and debate competition held for the Sikh youth across the United States of America and Canada. The objective is to provide an environment where Sikh youth can develop public speaking, oral and written communication skills.  Sikh youth can learn the skills of public speaking along with delving into Sikh history and philosophy. The Symposium provides youth with a platform to learn and reflect on many topics, starting from the basics of Sikhi to an in-depth study of Gurbani. It encourages youth to reconnect with the foundations and roots of Sikh faith.

The public speaking competition is open to children between the ages of 6 and 22 and has three levels of speeches-locals, regionals and internationals. It is first organized at local levels in various cities across North America in March-April each year, followed by State level. These state-level competitions are divided into 13 regions across the United States and Canada, with winners from each region going to the International level competitions in the month of August.

Participating children are divided into five groups by age. Each group is given a book and children are encouraged to read their assigned books based on Sikh principles and history. Along with reading a book, they are given the task of answering three challenging questions in order to prepare their speech of 6 to 7 minutes. First four groups compete by the way of prepared speeches and the final group engages in a debate focused on a yearly chosen topic.

On the first day, group 1 to 4 delivered speeches in front of the sangat and Judges. These groups gave speeches on Sakka Chamkaur, Brave Sikh women, Dastar and message of Gurbani. Everyone also enjoyed a visit to the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton, also known as the “Birthplace of Aviation”. In the evening, youth also enjoyed sports and fun activities.

The next day, seven youths from group 5 (ages 16 to 22), participated in a debate on “1984 Ghallughara”. They spent almost 4 hours with questions and answers which also included opening statements, responses and closing statements. The moderator of the debate was Harjinder Singh from Windsor, Ontario, who conducted and carried the discussion in a very good way.

The same evening, a banquet and a special program was held at the Holiday Inn in Cincinnati to honor the 56 finalists. The highlights of the program also included keynote speech by Navkiran Kaur Khalra, daughter of human rights activist Late S. Jaswant Singh Khalra; founder President of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Gian Singh Sandhu and closing remarks by Convener Kuldip Singh.

The results were announced after the Kirtan Darbar at Gurdwara Sahib on the last day of the Symposium. Pahul Kaur from Texas, Muskaan Kaur from Chicago, Aneil Kaur from Ontario, Jasjeev Singh from Ohio and Sehaj Singh from Texas were the first-place award winner in each group. Medals and certificates were given to all participating children. In addition to the winners, all the participating children were given a special distinguished speaker plaque. All the participants who spoke in Punjabi were also rewarded extra cash prize.

Every morning, families staying the hotel performed Nitnem together. Youth recited Kirtan at Gurdwara Sahib prior to beginning of the speeches. The highlight of the event was that the children attending the event prepared their best speeches and not once did it feel like competition. Convener Kuldeep Singh and Bhai Darshan Singh, Head Granthi of Gurdwara Sahib, thanked all the youth, parents, volunteers and congregation for organizing the event successfully.