The I Heart conference series brings people together in order to engage the human reality of the world around us. The conferences aim to create community while educating and inspiring action. I Heart conferences are student organized and student led in order to empower young people to share their critical voices and actions in the process of envisioning and creating solutions to the challenges of our time.
The I Heart Conference series is the brainchild of SUNY Geneseo students Nick Lagrassa and Justine Cheape who came up with the idea during the summer of 2009 while driving back from Washington DC. Nick and Justine were in Washington lobbying the United States government to take action to help end atrocities being committed by militias in central Africa.
On the drive home they felt empowered by the passion, intelligence, and poise nearly 500 of their peers demonstrated on Capital Hill as they met with numerous members of congress to articulate their support for the human rights of individuals and communities living in central Africa and to express their desire for the United States government to play a role in helping to protect those rights. The idea Nick and Justine came up with on the drive home was to figure out a way to bring their peers together around common and important interests and to give them an excuse to move into the foreground to share their unique perspectives, projects, academic work, and passions for making the world a better place. Hence, the I Heart conference series was born.
The first I Heart conference, I Heart Africa, took place at SUNY Geneseo in the Fall of 2009. It was followed by I Heart the Middle East at the University of Pittsburgh in the Fall of 2010, and I Heart Empowerment in the winter of 2011. Each conference has had its own unique character and content, but they all have been united by a focus on issues critical to the world around us and a belief that it is time for us to start working together to build the future we want to live in.