“We want seventh graders to think about the United Nations and international
– Penny Abeywardena,
Mayor’s office of
BY YVETTE BROWN
On Monday, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs held an event at IS 125 Thom J. McCann Woodside School to announce an education partnership with the United Nations.
Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, payed a visit to IS 125 to announce the NYC Junior Ambassadors program, which is offered to seventh graders across New York City.
This initiative engages 10 groups of seventh graders to become actively involved with the United Nations and its mission of addressing the most pressing challenges in the world. It is part of the effort to strengthen the connection between New York City and the UN and it is made possible through the partnership between International Affairs with the City’s Department of Education, Department of Youth and Community Development, the United Nations and the United Nations Foundation.
“We are looking at teachers that teach seventh grade, we think seventh grade is a really important influential time for adolescence and so we want seventh graders to think about the United Nations and international issues,” said Abeywardena about why the pilot program started off with only seventh graders. “I remember being in seventh grade, it’s a time where you’re thinking about all of the different things that you can do and I want to make sure that they’re aware that the United Nations and all of these opportunities in the international field are open to them.”
Mike Sangirardi, Dean of IS 125, spearheaded the program, solidifying Thursdays to take the children to the UN.
“It started off as one of the chancellor programs I was asked, ‘would you like to be involved with it?’ I applied and United Nations did accept us. It was through the DOE and they linked us up with the United Nations, after they linked us up, we met seven times and then after that Ms. Abeywardena came to us and said, ‘would you like to be ambassadors?’” said Sangirardi. “So after we got involved with the United Nations, they asked us, ‘would you like to get anymore students involved?’ and that’s how the ambassador program came up from the commissioner.”
He continued, saying that this initiative is important to bring to all schools because it gets education outside of the classroom and allows for a real life experience.
The benefits of the program include a tour of the UN headquarters matched to the class’s curricular interests, a classroom visit from a UN diplomat, who will provide an overview of their role in NYC and within the international community, a private year-end event celebration with the entire cohort of NYC Junior Ambassadors at a venue of significance to the history of the UN in NYC and lastly, a program certificate acknowledging participation as a NYC Junior Ambassador.
By applying, teachers agree to serve as a point of contact for NYC Junior Ambassadors, incorporate aspects of the UN in the classroom or after school program curriculum, ensure classrooms will attend the scheduled private tour of the United Nations and the year-end celebration and host a classroom visit by NYC’s UN diplomat.
“The UN has been in the United States for so long, in all of these children’s lives and it’s a name, but it’s not really a meaning, so these children actually get the meaning behind what’s going on,” said Judy Mittler, principal of IS 125. “I was fortunate that they came to have a real kind of discussion with all of my seventh grade students, which for IS 125 is almost 500 children, so to reach out to 500 children who for the most part are either first generation or not born here, so to see somebody come and discuss a marriage of all the countries together in one spot to work for the betterment of the world is quite a wonderful fee.”
The application opened on Oct. 23, the deadline to apply is Nov. 25, the inaugural cohort will be announced on Dec. 14, the launch of the NYC Junior Ambassadors will be on Jan. 11, 2016 and the year-end celebration will be in May 2016.
To apply or find out more, go to nyc.gov/international.
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext.128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites.