December 8, 2023 | By Kamilla Egamova
The YouthMADE Festival is a global celebration of youth creativity and innovation that invites students, educators, and advocates to showcase youth-led work. Leading up to the 2024 YouthMADE Festival, we are sharing a series of stories highlighting youth creators and changemakers around the world who are putting their hands, hearts, and minds toward projects and causes they care about.
This story is by Kamilla Egamova, currently a college student at City College of New York. Kamilla was part of a Minecraft club at John Dewey High School where their team created a Minecraft build of a sustainable New York City for the Net Zero Challenge and became a finalist in the 2023 Emoti-Con NYC Youth Digital Media and Tech Challenge. In this story, Kamilla shares about the project and how the Minecraft club was an essential part of their high school career.
I am a first-generation college student who recently graduated from John Dewey High School in New York City. John Dewey High School has a large and diverse student population, and in 2020, my former teacher Mr. Ahmed started a Minecraft club. Minecraft club became a huge part of my life and I have unlocked so many different opportunities through it.
One of my favorite projects that I got to work on in the Minecraft club is the Net Zero Challenge. Members of the esports division of the club and I got to build a more sustainable New York City in Minecraft. The overall goal of the project was to promote sustainability and have a rough draft of what we would want the city to look like in the future. We started the project by conducting research on how pollution affects marine life in Kaiser Park. We prepared our Minecraft build to join the Billion Oyster Project, an initiative to restore oyster reefs to the New York Harbor, which includes other competitors who want to spread the word of sustainability. It became a passion project for me after learning about all the damage that pollution does to the city and to people; I really wanted to find a way to express my concern.
The build took us about two weeks to complete. One of the big milestones that we had was creating a vision for the project and completing the overall map and designing every building. Through the process I received helpful feedback that I wasn’t using sustainable material when making my build, and I immediately did more extensive research on which blocks to use.
Through this project I learned how to work with a large group of people, and how to communicate my thoughts and ideas better. I was also able to gain more building and movement skills in Minecraft. I did a lot of research on pollution which allowed me to make new connections with peers who were trying to spread word about climate change. I was surprised to learn how many people enjoyed Minecraft at my school, and how easy it was to communicate with one another via in-game chat. (This was when I was working on the project from home.) One thing I learned about myself while working on this project is how stubborn I can be sometimes, but I changed and grew as a person and became open minded throughout the course of this build. My advice to other students is: Have fun! Be creative and don’t forget to listen to everyone’s thoughts and opinions.
Our team was thrilled to win the Net Zero Challenge competition. After the competition wrapped, we began introducing ways to utilize Minecraft in everyday learning. I visited an elementary school and connected with the younger generation of students. Upon graduating I took up a tutoring opportunity with a first grader who I tutor over Minecraft and Microsoft Teams. I taught him about sustainability and different types of energy sources while playing Minecraft.
Minecraft was also a really big part of my social development, as it helped me learn English over summer break. It was super easy since I already knew what the item is called in my native language and playing Minecraft in English really made it so much easier to link translations between one another.
Before Minecraft club, I struggled to make friends at school, and going fully remote did not make it any better. Minecraft club helped me start a social life and offered me new opportunities. I got a chance to visit the Microsoft Center with my friends, presented our Net Zero Challenge Build, and became more confident in my public speaking skills.
I believe that it is extremely good to present young minds with real-world problems.
Having opportunities that push people to create, problem-solve, and make a difference are important. It spreads awareness of the current state of the world and the more people who are educated on different matters, the better it is for the planet.
By Emma Mills