BY YVETTE BROWN
On Thursday, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Ambassador Michele Sison, paid a visit to the 30th Avenue School as part of the Junior Ambassadors program.
The Junior Ambassadors program is an initiative that engages 10 groups of seventh graders, across New York City, to be educated about the role of the United Nations and how they play a role in the global community, while they are encouraged to participate in social change. The program was announced at the end of last year by Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, at IS 125 Thom J. McCann Woodside School.
According to Abeywardena, they are looking only at seventh graders for the program because it is a “really important influential time for adolescents and so we want seventh graders to think about the United Nations and international issues.”
Part of the benefits of the program include a tour of the UN headquarters, which is matched to the class’s curricular interests, a classroom visit from a UN diplomat, a private year-end event celebration with the entire cohort of NYC Junior Ambassadors and a program certificate acknowledging participation as a NYC Junior Ambassador.
The Queens winners of the program include PS 113, Hunters Point Community Middle School and The 30th Avenue School.
Annette Bindert, a Literature teacher at The 30th Avenue School whose class was chosen for the visit, said, “Being able to assist in the process of inspiring my students is truly rewarding, because it reinforces why I am here, and what I am doing to help these students change the world.”
The Queens winners have each gotten a tour of the UN and are now into the next phase of the program, where they receive a visit from a UN diplomat and in The 30th Avenue School’s case, they were visited by Sison.
“I was honored to be invited to speak to the Junior Ambassadors at Q-300. I spoke to these students about what a young person with an interest in international affairs might do in terms of further study or work. I was pleased to be able tell the students about my own path as a career U.S. Foreign Service officer with the State Department, and my own service abroad in 11 nations around the world over the last 30 years,” said Sison.
Sison spoke about her role at the UN and Human Rights because the class is incorporating the UN into their curriculum by learning about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the end, students were able to ask her different questions pertaining to her role.
“I was blown away by the questions from the students, their sophistication, and the level of understanding of what is going on in the world today. Students asked about everything from girls’ education, to using technology, Ebola response, and even the Global Goals,” said Sison. “I saw a great curiosity and concern about education, economic development, and human rights – and one of the most telling questions, I think, was a student asking about what we take for granted here as Americans. It’s clear that through the Junior Ambassador’s program, these students have gotten exposure to situations in other countries that have opened their minds, encouraged them to ask the right questions, and helped them to see themselves as part of the solution.”
Sison said that at the age of seventh graders, it’s never too early to look at what’s going on at a broader international sphere.
“From what I can see, the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs’ Junior Ambassador Program has given these students a remarkable opportunity to be exposed to not only what the UN is doing across the river, but also to some of the real challenges in our world that extend far beyond the boundaries of this city, or even this country,” said Sison. “I think this program is a great resource for these students, but it also reminds those of us working on these issues of what we’re doing in our work at the UN – we’re representing these students as well, and their curiosity about the world and their concern for the future is both inspiring and motivating.”
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext.128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites.