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March 25, 2010 | Discoveries

My Experiential Educational Journey to the UN

Nana Akua Afriyie Antwi
Nana Akua Afriyie Antwi (l) with her friend at the UN Headquarters
Nana Akua Afriyie Antwi (l) with her friend at the UN Headquarters

My experiential educational journey to the United Nations Headquarters began on one sunny Saturday afternoon, when the Association of Global Citizens-Ghana (AGC), a subsidiary of the Association of World Citizens (AWC), a San Francisco-based international peace and human rights Non-Governmental Organisation in Consultative Status with the United Nations and accredited with the UN Human Rights Council, visited my school – Yaa Asantewaa Girls Senior High School at Tanoso - Kumasi, where I was the Senior School Prefect. I and the prefectorial body made sure, all students gathered at the Assembly Hall, for a sustained speaking engagement session organized under the auspices of AGC-Ghana's Students for Peace Program. The theme for that afternoon was on Reconciliation, as we learnt later that the United Nations General Assembly had earlier dedicated the year 2009 as an International Year of Reconciliation; and as a result the AGC-Ghana as an affiliate NGO to the United Nations was engaging students in selected senior high schools across the country on the subject, under its broader Youth Assembly at the United Nations concept of which it is a partner and endorser. The engagement was a two-in-one affair, the Youth Assembly at the United Nations headquarters, served as a prelude to the main lecture for the afternoon.

Youth Assembly at the United Nations, an annual global event focusing on idea leadership for young people from all around the world age 16 – 26 years, shows how one person can make a difference by engaging with present day challenges through experiential educational opportunities like the Youth Assembly concept provides, as well as active citizen diplomacy.

At the end of the lecture some students who expressed interest to participate, were enlisted together with five of us nominated by the school authorities, of having significantly contributed to a cause and shown leadership in community service projects, scientific research on sustainability, youth mobilization for a Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related issues or other social development initiatives; and could be one of the candidates of the 'Outstanding Youth Achievers' Recognition'. Let me pause and personally congratulate Sophia Kpetigo of the Akosombo International School who made all of us very proud, as been the only student out of the twenty five students from Ghana who was recognized for her achievements in championing women and children's rights issues as resonant in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For her recognition she was given the Outstanding Youth Achievers' Recognition plaque, which I believe was sent to the AGC-Ghana's office for it to be presented to her, since Sophia could not attend because of one or the other reason. Those of us fellow nominees who were fortunate enough to have attended were each given a Certificate of Participation at the 6th Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, during the summer of 2009.

I packed bag and baggage in the early morning of 4th August 2009, and left for the Kotoka International Airport for travelling formalities, I was leaving for New York alone since all other students from different schools had left on the 3rd of August. At the airport my caring dad and an official from the AGC-Ghana saw me through check-in, until I finally boarded the Delta Airlines plane of which I was flying onboard. I arrived at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Airport in New York at about 7pm and I was chauffeured to the Broadway Hotel and Hostel where I met fellow Ghanaian students who helped me unpack my luggage. The hotel staff welcomed and ushered me to my room where I shared a bed with Sarah from the Kumasi Girls Senior High School, after that we met with Ms. Vivita a senior executive of the hotel, who demonstrated to us how we would find our way around.

The next day we went to the UN Headquarters, an impressive and distinctive complex in New York City that has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since its completion in 1950. It is located in the Turtle Bay neighbourhood of downtown Manhattan, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River; for our registration. We were then ushered into a conference room .The executives of Youth Assembly welcomed us, first it was by Patrick Sciarratta, Co-Founder, followed by Dr. Elaine Valdov, Project Director, and finally by Ambassador Heidi Schroderus-Fox. There was also campaign night and light dinner to welcome everyone.

On the 6th of August, we had a breakfast at the UN cafeteria and networking with fellow delegates. After that we had an overview of TEACH-Ins on the issues of hunger and poverty, women empowerment and gender equality as well as children's rights with emphasis on health. Additionally we also enjoyed a University of California Peace Festival Performance by the Studio for Performing Arts & the Al-Azhar Ensemble at the UN Lobby, as well as received a sustained lecture on women's health by Fabien Dubuet and another by Dr. Victor Ortega on the global pandemic – HIV/AIDS. Partnership in development was another topic which I took very keen interest in, later in the afternoon. The day ended with an intriguing culture night and another light dinner of a kind.

On the 7th which was the third day, we started with a forehand celebration of the United Nations International Youth Day, which originally falls on the 12th of August every year, it was under the theme: Sustainability: Our challenge .Our Future. The broader impact I had from this celebration at the UN headquarters as a young person, I firmly believe is summed up in this quote I can never forget – “It's imperative that youth embrace the challenge of sustainability in its fullness as they help pave the way forward through the 21st century and beyond. Youth action, inclusion and their full participation are key to developing today's world for the generations of today and tomorrow and central to a sustainable existence.”

This I am sure should be the bedrock of our focus as young people and the height to reach is boundless. Finally we had a seminar on innovation for change and a Youth Assembly closing. I exchanged contacts with other fellow young people from around the world and went further to our farewell dinner.

In conclusion my rationale of writing this somewhat detailed account of my experiential educational journey to the United Nations headquarters in New York, is to encourage and whip up an active interest in students for experiential educational opportunities and urge parents, corporate institutions and others to help avail such a once in a life time opportunities to the Ghanaian student, for it looks like the Ghanaian student is lost out in experiential education, to wit the Youth Assembly at the United Nations headquarters and others.

My heartfelt thanks goes to the headmistress of Yaa Asantewaa Girls Senior High School, the Association of Global Citizens-Ghana, the US Embassy for issuing my visa and especially to the woman who interviewed me, I very much remember your admonishing that I should write for publication my experiences at the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, your admonishing was very much appreciated and has been adhered to. Lastly to my loving parents and especially to you Daddy, throughout the process you showed to me that involved fathers really make a big difference. Indeed my experiential educational journey to the United Nations Headquarters, as a participant of the 6th Youth Assembly has been my long walk to an accomplished dream.

Credit: Nana Akua Afriyie Antwi
Email: [email protected]

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