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Every week, our students share their ideas, opinions and insight in the Wenona Weekly Student Blog.
During the winter holidays, Sibel (Year 11) attended the Envision Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC and New York City.
I was humbly invited to this course after completing my SATs at the end of last year. The 10-day conference focused on diplomacy, foreign policy, cross-cultural communications, as well as economic and social issues of our future and involved engaging with global leaders who are implementing change and influencing policies internationally.
To begin, in Washington DC, 300 students from over 145 various countries attended a summit at George Maison University, hearing firstly from the Head of Speakers Bureau of the World Bank, Angelica Silvero. As a Brazilian national, her role is to lead World Bank global campaigns and is a part of the TEDx and WikiStage teams. As the World Bank provides loans to countries for capitol projects, we discussed issues surrounding government intentions and favourable world order. Documentary film-maker, Molly Bank also shared her new film, Testing Hope. This film was extremely eye-opening as it documented Grade 12 students in a town outside Cape Town preparing for their matrix exams in schools with no access to fresh water or toilets and highlighted the struggle it is for them to stay in school when conditions are against them. It was astonishing to watch, and the film now reaching millions of people, shows the power of young voices passionate about their learning.
Following these sessions, we split into groups to focus on analysing and developing our own specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This ended in drafting policies, based on a specific nation's needs in regards to sustainable development and diplomatic strategies. What stuck out most, however, was learning the roles that foreign ministries play in foreign policy. For this we attended a seminar at the U.S Department of State, hearing from the Chief of Counter Terrorism; Nathan A. Sales, who spoke of the challenges of counterterrorism with today's technologies and invited the scholars to discuss strategies that could involve the combat of cyber terrorism. This was followed by visits to Washington's embassies. My group specifically went to the Saudi Arabian embassy, where we were encouraged to question the actions of the government in terms of their policies for women's rights and education. Of course, the monuments were also a great part in D.C as well, attending Smithsonian museums, the White House, the Capitol Building and various war memorials.
In New York City, we further developed our proposals for the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals and finally prepared for a Global Summit simulation modelled after a United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations itself in New York City. It was such an incredible opportunity to see and hear from world-issue leaders in the United Nations, and present a simulated declaration with the voices of many young students from around the world. Each group focused on an assigned national issue to craft solutions within the interest of education, gender equality, justice, peace and health. My group represented Indonesia and worked on strategies to increase access to health and hygiene.
The program was so insightful, and it was amazing to meet and engage with many students from different cultures, who practise vastly different religions and live on all faces of the globe. What was unbelievable was the diversity of people attending the conference, with students from all walks of life. My two room-mates were from Bulgaria and the Philippines and every student had a different story, circumstance and background that was incredibly interesting to hear. If you are interested in gaining a global perspective and engaging in such an experience, I would highly recommend applying for one of many Envision conferences held all over the world. Particularly for those interested in studying abroad or wanting to travel and meet new people, I would highly recommend talking to Ms McFetridge about opportunities as such. We are all guilty of getting caught up in the North Shore crowd and this experience was a great way to explore cultures and gain a new perspective of the world that we have such a privilege in. For more information, I’m happy to have a chat.
Sibel, Year 11