David White IV founded the O2 Conference, which gives students an opportunity to bring their ideas to life. Based in Hilliard, Ohio, young people from grades 6-12 can use the platform to highlight a need in their community. Whether this is in their home or their school, David emphasized how the conference is designed to encourage and support the ideas behind each student’s endeavor.
“We want to see the city thriving, and we believe that young people are super capable. They’re world changers. They don’t need to be older to make a difference.” – David White IV
Students observe needs in their community first-hand, and then express their approach for finding a solution. Applying to the conference allows middle and high school students a different type of inspiration they can tap into. They feel the accountability and ownership in the social change they can supply to the world.
In every conference, a few students are chosen through an application process to present an idea at the O2 Conference. The result becomes students being paired with a mentor and receiving $10,000 in funding. Monetary funding can also increase, depending on donations given to a student’s idea. Other than donations, the community plays a huge role in the conference; from a portion of the conference ticket sales going directly towards student projects to the audience voting for the projects they connect with most. Through every step, the students are engaging with the community in the direction of social good.
Once a student begins the process of making their project more tangible, it sparks reflection. David has a very honest way of revealing the outcomes of student projects. He explains the highlights and lessons discovered through this collaborative effort of students, mentors, and community. In some cases, the projects rocketed past what was expected. In others, the outcome had more internal value, which in turn can later be transformed into a better external social good gain. To David, all the experiences brought a new perspective to be grateful for.
Hosting the O2 Conference is about “Breathing life into Columbus through the ideas of young people”, but David further explains the idea of organizing around an organic need. To hear his take on community initiatives forging participation beyond location boundaries and generation gaps was intriguing. It makes you really think of how one action or exchange can open many doors.
David even began to speak about how the O2 Conference became established. He talks about what led to the creation of this platform through his church, Upper Arlington Lutheran Church (UALC). He dips into his own journey embracing his role as a pastor, and what it means to his life. Being involved with helping people in need and creating a space for people to thrive is not a foreign concept for David. I loved hearing him speak of the wonderful, community-centered initiatives he takes joy in.
The theme for this year’s O2 Conference is “Thriving Environment”. Middle and high school students have until early January to submit an application for the conference being held in March 2020. Details for registration can be found on the application page.