Global Citizen Student Jacqueline Erler on her Experience at the UN Youth Assembly
A junior from Freehold, Jackie is a member of Ranney's growing Global Citizens Program, which has joined in multiple global conferences at UN Headquarters
The Ranney School Global Citizenship students have leaped into 2017 on a strong note, attending the United Nations Winter Youth Assembly in New York City from January 31 - February 2. The two-day conference was centered around encouraging youth to participate in the global conversation of “realizing the 2030 agenda.” This 2030 agenda refers to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 aspirational “global goals” that were enacted in 2015. Because the assembly was mostly attended by university students, it felt unique to be in such a prestigious delegate position as a high school junior.
Through several keynote speakers and dynamic panels, the assembly brought specific SDGs (poverty, education, and sustainable consumption and production) to the forefront of our weighty discussion. Additionally, workshops encouraged active planning for achieving these goals in local communities. Throughout the trip, I was able to effectively contribute facts and figures that I had studied in our Global Citizenship class, supplying our discussion with pivotal information.
The assembly began with a lengthy opening ceremony in which multiple keynote speakers made speeches that inspired the audience inside the General Assembly Hall. The opportunity to sit in the seats that delegates across the world use during their general assembly meetings was extraordinary. The speeches were meant to frame the conference’s purpose on a broad-scale, explaining to those in the room the reasons for bringing youth from across the world together. The current president of the 71st United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson, gave us a first-hand account of his experiences with the SDGs. He described his methods of presiding over the UN General Assembly and explained the differences between the current Sustainable Development Goals and the old Millennium Goals (2000-2015), which were less specific and accessible. Through this ceremony, I learned that teens and adolescents are an important catalyst for change, as we possess innovative ideas and a large influence in our small spheres.
The afternoon sessions were far more exciting, focusing directly on the specific SDGs that the assembly chose. The first session, Quality Education for People and Planet, featured a panel of distinguished global leaders. They spoke of the education obstacles that specific groups around the world face, specifically minorities in underdeveloped countries. We reviewed the UNESCO GEM Report (Global Education Monitoring), taking special note of what we have achieved and what still must be done. We concluded that there were still significant disparities between gender in receiving education and brainstormed ideas that would create sustainable futures for all. Our second session, Youth Plan of Action Deliberations: Goal 4 - Quality Education (SDSN), was an active planning session in which we collaborated among ourselves and other participants to create an achievable plan in our local communities. We presented our ideas to the moderators, and I was able to use the statistics and data that I had remembered from the Girl Rising Art Project that I had completed earlier in the year to make my case (watch the video). We spoke about the difference that our Global Citizenship class was creating in our high school community and presented unique solutions.
On our second day, the focus shifted from education to the eradication of poverty (SDG #1). Our first session, Supporting the Implementation of SDG 1 through Better Jobs for Young People (ILO), was centered around addressing work deficits and labor market inequalities among global youth. Focused on youth employment, the panel emphasized fundamental social policies for an inclusive and sustainable society. The keynote speakers encouraged finding quality jobs, joining trade unions that would provide job protection, and engaging in entrepreneurial activities. I learned that education, the SDG we had just explored the day before, was interconnected with poverty in many ways, and proper schooling and training would ultimately help unemployed youth penetrate the labor market and join the workforce. We treated our second session, Youth Plan of Action Deliberations: Goal 1 – No Poverty (SDSN), as a design thinking process. Ranney grouped together to assess the resources we had, the ones we needed, and the actions we would need to promote change in our school community.
Although most of my day took place inside the assembly, I enjoyed my time outside of the United Nations immensely. I was able to form strong bonds with my Global Citizenship class (learn more) through delicious lunches and dinners. With our spare time, we engaged in typical tourist activities: visiting Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, and the New York Public Library. My favorite part of the trip was when we were stopped on the street and asked to contribute our opinions about current political issues to a large, global news company. Each of us in the group was interviewed on camera, and we spoke passionately about our views and used our knowledge of current events from our Global Citizenship class. I had never had an experience like this, and I will never forget it!
Overall, I had a fantastic experience at the United Nations Youth Assembly. The collaborative atmosphere was inspiring, and I loved being able to participate as a member of a global discussion that provided me with a better background of the SDGs we discussed in class. I was able to see first-hand how many of the SDGs are interconnected, specifically in regards to educating individuals to bring them out of poverty. I find that this type of experiential learning is crucial in developing a more well-rounded education and understanding the abstract ideas within our Global Citizens Program. In the future, I plan to further explore the concerns we addressed and use these concepts to develop the projects I am currently working on at Ranney. Ultimately, the ability to contribute ideas beyond the classroom is truly beneficial and allows students to develop their skills in incredible ways.