Summer 2014 Youth Assembly Day 2

    After eight hours at the United Nations day two of the International Youth Assembly has come to an end, and apparently the inspiration will continue to be unrelenting. From the opening minutes to the end of the day, the program presented us the delegates with engaging speakers who were not only experts in their fields but also demonstrated a clear link between youth and leadership.

    The main topic of the morning was a contemporary one, the crisis in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and Gaza. We first heard from Shani Perez, Director of Kids Creating Peace. Perez highlighted the difference a wall has made on the relationships between the two regions. Where as in the past communication could flow somewhat freely between the two areas, the wall that currently exists has all but ended this dialogue. As a result, each nation shapes their image of the other based on their own often biased media. Perez sees the youth as a solution to this problem. She pointed out that due to our increased access to information, young people can at times be more open minded and flexible. Therefore, it is imperative that youth are involved in this peace process in order to promote understanding and common ground.

    Another incredible speaker from the morning, Sam Sussman also promoted understanding between these two conflicting regions. As Co-Director of EXTEND, Sussman offers five day educational tours for American Jews to Palestine. He hopes to create with this program a new dialogue that fosters understanding and helps break down the prejudices that have built up on both sides of the conflict. Sussman also made the important request to not only listen to the news media when we are gathering our information on conflicts such as that between Israel and Gaza. Though the violence is prevalent (and more than prevalent on the news) there are also numerous organizations from both sides that are trying to find peace that lack coverage. As our ‘shepherd’ Patrick Sciarratta stated, “Unfortunately when it comes to the news, often what bleeds is what leads.”

    After lunch we reconvened once again for various workshops. Today I selected one on networking. I’m about to be a senior in college and have become scarily aware of how important networking will be in the next two to three years of my life. However, due to time delays, this somewhat fell through. Mr. Sciarratta who was headed the workshop was late (as he is and incredibly busy person) and therefore he only had time to explain the inner workings of the Friendship Ambassador Foundation (FAF). The FAF actually organized the entire Youth Assembly yet, many (probably most) of us had only the slightest idea of what they did. In actuality, it is quite fascinating. Under the leadership of Sciarratta, the organization tries to promote the cultural diversity of local communities in countries all over the world. They achieve this my organizing programs such as choral tours and building projects in emerging tourist areas in order to guarantee tourism and promote culturally richness. This seems like it would be an incredibly rewarding experience and I encourage anyone who is interested to visit their website They offer some amazing trips such as a community project in Ecuador where volunteers help develop and maintain a local Amazonian town’s tourism infrastructure.

    We ended the day with a panel discussion on social entrepreneurship. Though many of the themes overlapped in this discussion there was one, mentoring, that rang especially true to me. Steve Larosilliere, Founder and President of Stoked Mentoring Inc. presented the idea. His organization focuses on hiring and training mentors that can then be inserted into society in order to make meaningful change to the youth in a community. I think this is an absolutely brilliant idea. Finding a mentor not only gives you somebody to rely on during times of stress but also instills you with characteristics that you admire and helps you reach your full potential. I believe this as during my senior year of high school I had an academic mentor who helped me buckle down, study hard, and realize my potential.

    However, perhaps just as impressive as our speakers today were those in the audience. After each presentation, speakers were inundated with questions, which were of course very intelligent. They often focused on an area that was perhaps not explored by the presenter in the timeframe given. All questions demonstrated a deep understanding of the topic and a desire to understand how it could be implemented in their own society. Like I said in February, if the delegates at this Assembly represent our future, then the future is very bright indeed.

    That’s all for day two! I’ll be back soon to report on the third and final day. It’s shaping up to be fairly incredible.    

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