A passion for change

Alex at theYouth Inc. offices, Adelaide

Alex at theYouth Inc. offices, Adelaide

Alexandra Bruhn, known to everyone as Alex, this year won the Commendation Award for South Australia’s Young Citizen of the Year.

Presented by the Australia Day Council of South Australia, the award celebrates and recognises individuals and organisations who have made a noteworthy contribution.

In Alex’s case, she was honoured for her work as a Community Builder at Youth Inc., and Curator of Global Shapers Adelaide (an initiative of the World Economic Forum).

Her award noted:

“Alex focuses on ushering in innovative programs which address some of our most challenging and prevalent systemic issues. Alex seeks to represent the unique voices of the young people she serves in these discussions.”

This honour followed receiving the City of Adelaide’s Young Citizen of the Year Award in 2022, and being named one of The Advertiser’s “26 most inspiring women”.

As a student at the University of Adelaide – studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology - her focus and the fire that drove her were inequity and youth.

“I always found myself angry and frustrated with the educational injustice of the world,” she says.

“I never thought I would be capable of taming that fury into something good, but now my work is shaped around helping others, and trying to make change.

“It was truly gratifying to receiveYoung Citizen of the Year in 2022 from the City of Adelaide, followed by the Commendation for South Australia’s Young Citizen of the Year in 2023.

“Such recognition not only affirms the significance of my endeavours, but also serves as a powerful affirmation of the tangible impact they are making.”

Alex, 29, decided to step back from her studies this year due to her increasing work pressures but says: “My time engaging with the University really propelled me forward – I’m a big believer in lifelong learning.

Alex speaking at the _SOUTHSTART ODYSSEY event in March

Alex speaking at the _SOUTHSTART ODYSSEY event in March

“My passion now, and current research, focuses on utilising fourth-wave technology like AI and virtual realities to mitigate the danger of economic exclusion faced by young people, especially those who experience the compounding effects of educational disengagement and low literacy.

“Employed under the right circumstances, AI has the ability to democratise education, providing those in remote areas access to active learning, and engaging students through the immersive digital world.

“Integrating AI and digital realms into education is vital to ensure the skills young people are learning are relevant to their future and mitigate further economic exclusion.”

These efforts are part of the ethos of Youth Inc. Enterprise Academy where Alex works. Youth Inc. is described as “Adelaide’s newest learning alternative” and is designed for young people who are looking for something a bit different.

“We describe ourselves as a studio school, deliberately small and entrepreneurial. We have a different ethos and approach to mainstream schools, with a stronger focus on practical learning, enterprise skills, work, resilience and wellbeing.

Alex receiving a Young South Australian Citizen of the year award

Alex receiving a Young South Australian Citizen of the year award

I always encourage people to follow their heart; look at what makes you angry and passionate, and use this to propel yourself forward.

“I have been with Youth Inc. for about six years now. We’re currently in the process of conceptualising a dual world learning experience that gives young people agency over their education, promoting economic involvement and active citizenship by removing barriers to entry such as socioeconomic status or geographic isolation.

“We want to create an education system that empowers people to shape a future aligning with their own aspirations and allows them to succeed in the changing economic future.

“Giving young people the agency to create change, and the chance to thrive is what I aim to do through my work.

“The initiatives I’m involved in, such as the Conscious Cities Festival, Foundations for Tomorrow and Global Shapers Community, all work towards addressing the relevant issues of future generations.

“Skilling our youth for the future is crucial. The economic gap is increasing rapidly with the fourth industrial revolution pushing already marginalised youth towards labour jobs that are low-paying and potentially unfulfilling.

“There is an increasing risk of digital exclusion for young people who have disengaged from learning, particularly with the advent of advanced technology and the metaverse.

“These rapid technological advancements are reshaping our way of life, but traditional education systems are struggling to keep pace with evolving curricula and educational practices.

“Consequently, young people are ill- prepared to navigate the implications of this digital transformation and make informed decisions about their future paths, including career choices, opportunities, and lifestyle.

“I always encourage people to follow their heart; look at what makes you angry and passionate and use this to propel yourself forward.

“Nothing has ever been changed with indifference. Be bold, be passionate and look after one another.”

Story by Sienna Sulicich, co-editor of On Dit at the University of Adelaide this year. She is an Honours student in English Literature.

Tagged in lumen, lumen spring summer 2023, Alumni