Shillong: Over 1,500 students from 62 campuses across districts in Meghalaya converged at the Shillong International Centre for Performing Arts & Culture (SICPAC) on Tuesday for the Aspire Meghalaya State Summit 2022.

At the summit, 36 talented individuals from various fields, including singing, dance, contemporary performances, musical instruments, art & craft, and sustainable innovation, took the stage to represent their schools and respective districts. They performed in front of a panel of judges and the State Summit audience. Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma was also present.

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These talents emerged from the State’s largest Soft Skills and Talent Identification programme under the Aspire Meghalaya initiative, from a pool of over 13,000 youths and, subsequently, 348 talents who represented 62 partner campuses at talent events held in their respective districts in the months of October and November.

The contingent arrived in the State Capital on December 9, accompanied by their parents and teachers. They have since been preparing for the State Summit, the culmination event of the year-long Aspire Meghalaya programme. As part of their preparation, the 36 talents received talent mentorship sessions from renowned artists such as Kitkupar Shangpliang and Pynsuklin Syiemiong from Meghalaya-based fusion rock band Summersalt, as well as Benedict Skhemlang Hynniewta, Tengnang D Sangma, Lamphang Syiemlieh, Anniesha Mawrie, Shepherd Najiar, Gracyl Ropmay, Rida Gatphoh, Naga Karthik MP, Banshai Mukhim, and Shaun Morehead Nonghulo. The members of the Talent Selection Jury included Mikhail Marak, Simi Khongtiang, Benedict Skhemlang Hynniewta, Monica Chanda, Dr N. Munish Singh, Careen Joplin Langstieh, and Meba Ofilia.

Speaking at the function, Chief Minister Sangma said, “I believe that everyone is special. However, many of our youth go through life without realizing their true potential. Even if they know what they are good at, they may not have the opportunity to showcase their talents, pursue their dreams, and excel in their God-given abilities.”

Conrad Sangma speaking at the Aspire Meghalaya State Summit 2022

He further said that our state’s youth need to be directed and their energies channelized in the right way. “Programmes like Aspire are the small but important steps that we are taking as the State Government in order to ensure that we are able to provide our youth with the best opportunities that they deserve,” he added.

He went on to say that the youths are India’s biggest strength and its biggest challenge, and it is important to take care of them. “It is the responsibility of the government, as well as parents, teachers, and traditional and religious leaders, to ensure that we can channel our youth’s energy into a constructive force that will drive our state and country forward. The Aspire Meghalaya programme is part of this big picture, and I am happy to see such talented individuals today. Our goal is not only to identify these talents but to promote and support them as they continue to develop and grow,” he said.

The event also saw the release of the Meghalaya Youth Survey 2022 Study by W A M Booth, Director, Sports & Youth Affairs Department, Government of Meghalaya in the presence of S R Marak, Joint Secy., Sports & Youth Affairs Department and Dr N Munish Singh, Zonal Director, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Northeast India. 

Over 300 campuses participated in the youth survey through the support of over 500 teachers state-wide. The study released Tuesday was vetted by the APJ Abdul Kalam Centre for Policy, Research & Analysis, IIM Shillong.

Bakordor W Bannett, the principal of Pariong Presbytery Higher Secondary School, also spoke at the function. She thanked the Chief Minister and the state government for allowing events like this to happen.

“By reaching out to us at our schools, you have touched our hearts. You have helped our students come out of their shells. I have seen many students who have never spoken or taken the stage learn to express themselves and showcase their talents, both at the school level and on a platform as big as this event. You have inspired our students to boost their confidence, to identify their own strengths and their leadership values,” Bannett said.

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The Aspire Meghalaya initiative was launched in March 2022 with the goal of encouraging grassroots youth engagement, building critical soft skills for life, improving career aspirations, and identifying emerging talents across districts. The program is an initiative of the Directorate of Sports & Youth Affairs, Government of Meghalaya, and is supported by the State Education Mission Authority. It is implemented by Meghalaya-based social enterprise, AVENUES.

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