June 21, 2016
New York City 7th graders graduate empowered to take on international challenges, locally, at ceremony at historic site of first UN General Assembly in NYC
Graduates pledge to reduce carbon footprint, host seminars to teach fellow students about importance of aiding refugees, create videos & websites to showcase collaborative solutions to address global issues
NEW YORK— Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena today announced the graduation of the inaugural cohort of NYC Junior Ambassadors. The program, launched in October 2015 in celebration of UN Day and the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, educates seventh graders across the five boroughs about the role of the United Nations in addressing some of the most pressing challenges in the world.
“The NYC Junior Ambassadors program is preparing NYC students to be global leaders,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “New York City has a long and proud history as host city of the UN – from its temporary home in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, to its permanent home on the east side of Manhattan. Today we celebrate not only the accomplishments of our NYC Junior Ambassadors, but the deep and lasting connections this program creates with one of the world’s premier institutions.”
“The United Nations is proud to call New York home,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “We are happy to partner with the City of New York on an initiative that encourages the world's future leaders to engage with the UN. Young people have a crucial role to play in building a future of peace and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.”
The program provided eleven groups of 7th grade students singular access to the United Nations community, including a curated visit to the United Nations Headquarters and a classroom visit from an Ambassador to the UN. Today these 7th graders are graduating from the program taking pledges to reduce their carbon footprint, hosting seminars to teach their fellow students about the importance of aiding refugees, and creating both videos and websites to showcase how they are working together to address global challenges. They will each receive a certificate attesting to their participation in NYC Junior Ambassadors and will be part of a future alumni network of NYC Junior Ambassadors.
“Over the last year, eleven classrooms from across NYC and nearly 275 students had the tremendous opportunity to receive a behind-the-scenes look at the UN, as well as meaningfully engage with UN experts and Ambassadors representing countries around the globe,” said Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. “My office recognizes the key role that youth play in creating a more sustainable and peaceful planet and this experience will have a lasting impact on the way in which these students view the world and seek to foster change in their communities and beyond. I am proud of the work the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs is doing to create global diplomats, locally.”
"We have been thrilled to welcome the first groups of NYC Junior Ambassadors to the UN Headquarters over the past year. We hope they enjoyed their visits! I am sure there were many future leaders among them. It was especially moving to welcome an all-girl class on the same day as the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women," said Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. "We very much appreciate partnering with the Mayor's Office for International Affairs on this exciting initiative. We hope it can create lasting connections between local schoolchildren and the United Nations."
In addition to receiving curated tours of the UN, Ambassadors to the UN representing Barbados, Denmark, the European Union, India, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States travelled throughout the five boroughs to engage NYC Junior Ambassadors at their schools and discuss the importance of diplomacy and international affairs.
“The Mayor’s Office for International Affairs has been an invaluable partner to the U.S. Mission in their work to strengthen the relationship between New York City and the UN community. By exposing middle school students to some of the most pressing challenges in our world, as well as the day-to-day operations of the UN, the City of New York is preparing the next generation for a lifetime of curiosity and engagement in world affairs, regardless of their future career choices,” said Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The graduation ceremony took place at the Queens Museum, a building with a strong connection the UN. The UN General Assembly met in the building that later became the Queens Museum until the site of its current home in Manhattan became available through a donation by the Rockefeller family.
“The NYC Junior Ambassadors graduation continues the Queens Museum's tradition of hosting international leaders," said Laura Raicovich, President and Executive Director of the Queens Museum. “These young ambassadors illustrate the diversity of Queens and we are proud to welcome them to our institution.”
This initiative is part of the effort by the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs to strengthen the connection between New Yorkers and the United Nations, and is made possible through a partnership with the Department of Education, the Department of Youth and Community Development, the United Nations and the United Nations Foundation.
A committee of New York City based local and global leaders were part of the selection committee for the inaugural cohort. Considerations such as classroom diversity – both geographic and demographic – as well as class size and educator commitment were weighed in during the selection process. Over 80 educators submitted applications and eleven were chosen. Teachers incorporated the UN into their curriculum through learning about human rights and humanitarian affairs, the environment and climate change, as well as through foreign language learning and the arts.
“I was honored to serve as a member of the Selection Committee for the inaugural cohort of NYC Junior Ambassadors and am thrilled that these students will be graduating with such a breadth of exposure to international affairs. These students represent NYC communities from across the five boroughs and are already making us proud as ambassadors of NYC,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, member of the selection committee.
“To tackle the world’s most pressing challenges – from sustainable development to climate to humanitarian relief – we need engaged, thoughtful youth leaders involved in the process,” said Kathy Calvin, President & CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “I support the NYC Junior Ambassadors program because it is preparing the emerging generation of NYC youth leaders to help drive solutions to the issues that matter most.”
“I had the unique opportunity to attend a UN tour with one of the eleven classrooms participating in the NYC Junior Ambassadors program. It was heartening to see young adults so attune to world affairs and committed to making a lasting impact on the world. I also had the privilege of hosting an educators meeting which provided a platform for these dedicated teachers to share their experiences and tools they use to engage NYC youth in international affairs,” said Bill Chong, Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development, and member of the selection committee.
“As a former NYC public school teacher and now Chair of the Education Committee in the NYC Council, I was honored to sit on the selection committee for the NYC Junior Ambassadors program. The UN is an invaluable educational resource for our NYC youth and I thank the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs for strengthening that connection through this innovative program,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, member of the selection committee.
“The NYC Junior Ambassadors program has allowed NYC students to see the UN as their global classroom and to see themselves as global citizens,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, member of the selection committee. “By targeting New York City youth at a critical time in their personal and intellectual growth, this program teaches students to think critically about the world around them and search for action oriented solutions to local and global challenges.”
“Having the opportunity to accompany a NYC Junior Ambassadors class tour of the UN reinforced how critical this program is to the social development of the participating students. As a former New York City middle school special education teacher it was especially inspirational for me to observe students analyzing and offering solutions to global issues. I congratulate all those graduating today,” said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, Chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and member of the selection committee.
“NYC Junior Ambassadors has allowed my students to flourish and grow. In addition to receiving a curated tour of the UN, they had the opportunity to discuss humanitarian affairs and the refugee crisis with Ambassadors to the UN. In response, my students hosted an inter-classroom presentation on the Syrian refugee crisis and its effects on children worldwide to educate other classes about the work being done by the United Nations to provide relief to children and families. My students are already making a difference in their school and are graduating from this program ready to make a meaningful impact on the world” said Stephanie Suarez, NIA after-school program teacher at I.S. 192 in Brooklyn.
“We are thrilled to have been selected as a NYC Junior Ambassadors classroom. The opportunities provided to my students have empowered them to be agents of change in their communities. It was inspiring to meet and hear from a female Ambassador who visited our classroom and instilled in my all-girl seventh grade class the notion that they can change the world,” said Colin McGinnis, educator at St. Ignatius School in the Bronx.
New York City 7th grade educators from all subject areas will be invited to apply to NYC Junior Ambassadors on behalf of one of their classrooms or afterschool programs in August 2016. The selected classrooms will be announced on UN Day in October, 2016. Educators will be required to incorporate the United Nations in their classroom or afterschool curriculum. To stay updated on the application process please visit the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs website www.nyc.gov/international and follow on twitter @globalnyc.
NYC Junior Ambassadors 2016 Graduating Class: