Teacher’s Challenge Aims to Connect NYC Schools to UN

A city partnership is helping bring students to the United Nations. NY1's Angi Gonzalez explains how the initiative hopes to develop the next generation of problem-solvers.

With the United Nations located so close to New York City schools, the commissioner for the Mayor's Office on International Affairs saw an opportunity.  

"What we want to make sure is that people realize that when you think about international issues and what the United Nations is working on, it's relevant to any topic that you’re talking about," said Penny Abeywardena, New York City's Commissioner for International Affairs.

To highlight that connection, the commissioner has launched a new initiative called NYC’s Junior Ambassadors.

"It's a competition for teachers to incorporate the UN into their curriculum. So whether they are in the sciences, in the maths or the social studies, how do you think about the UN and international issues," Abeywardena said.

Monday, the commissioner visited I.S. 125 in Woodside to talk to students and teachers about the program, which is only for seventh-grade students.

"In adolescence, this is where we could really grab their interest," Abeywardena said.

Teachers will apply to enter the contest, and then 10 groups of seventh graders will win a visit to UN Headquarters, among other opportunities.

It's a chance that is not lost on some of the school's eighth graders, who, through a separate after-school program, got to visit the UN in the last year.

“I learned a lot more about the world in general with everybody struggling and all their problems,” Jasmine Aly said of her experience at the UN as part of Teen Thursdays.

The Junior Ambassador program aims at exposing seventh graders to a broader range of world issues, some as serious as sex trafficking.

"I think we should learn about it as young kids. We grow up and get more information so that we can help more," said I.S. 125 student Lizbeth Montil.

Montil’s viewpoint is exactly what those behind the initiative hope will come from their partnership with the UN, the NYC Department of Education, the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and the United Nations Foundation.

"Learning current events in school, it’s only going to benefit us. It’s for the best," said I.S. 125 student Tanzema Fazal.

The deadline for educators to apply is November 25, with the winners announced December 14 and the journey for students beginning in January 2016.

To find out more about the New York City's Junior Ambassadors, go to www.nyc.gov/internationalaffairs.

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