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Gea Kangilaski is the inaugural head of the Democracy Academy

Gea Kangilaski is the inaugural head of the Democracy Academy at the President Kaljulaid Foundation

The interest of Estonian youth in societal events, or their lack of it, affects all of us in indirect but meaningful ways. One clear sign of this disinterest is the low voter turnout among young people. This trend signals to politicians that young people’s perspectives might not need to be included in their planning, a mindset that can have long-lasting effects.

The President Kaljulaid Foundation Democracy Academy is a response to this challenge. It’s a place where future leaders are trained, where great collaboration happens, and where 9th to 12th graders can gain new knowledge and make new friends. The academy focuses on developing leadership skills, encouraging civic activism, and sparking discussions about the progress of Estonian democracy, politics, media, and social trends.

Gea Kangilaski, who leads the Academy of Democracy, is committed to creating an engaging and relevant experience for high school students. “I want to build an academy that I would have loved to attend when I was in high school. My main hope is that we can inspire young people to be active citizens in areas that matter most to them,” says Gea, emphasizing the importance of this approach.

Gea’s extensive experience in politics, education, social initiatives, and the non-profit sector, including roles such as Deputy Mayor of Tartu and a member of the Tartu City Council, adds a lot of value to the academy. She has also played active roles on the boards of various NGOs.

The academy’s program, which lasts six months, includes five two-day modules. These sessions mix self-responsibility, inspiring interactions, learning new things, developing leadership skills, teamwork, and fun. The first session, beginning in January, expects to welcome 25 young participants. By next fall, the plan is to start several more groups, hoping to cultivate a new, active generation that’s interested in societal issues and wants to contribute to Estonia’s future.