KIHS’s Po­draza learns about United Na­tions

Record Observer - - School - By DOIUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

NEW YORK — Kent Is­land High School se­nior Wil­low Po­draza, 17, of Queen Anne, is de­vel­op­ing an ap­petite for global or in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, and se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing ma­jor­ing in that topic when she goes off to col­lege next year. She spent five days in New York City dur­ing the mid­dle of Au­gust at the United Na­tions along with about a thou­sand other young peo­ple from around the world, learn­ing about and dis­cussing crit­i­cal global is­sues.

The pro­gram Wil­low was in­volved in is called “The Youth Assem­bly at the United Na­tions,” bring­ing young peo­ple from around the world to­gether to take a fresh look at solv­ing some of the world’s tough­est prob­lems.

“It was the best ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve ever had,” said Wil­low. “I per­son­ally learned how the U.N. works. I learned to think ‘glob­ally’, and I made many new friends and con­nec­tions from all over the world.”

In the past year, Wil­low has been look­ing at and vis­it­ing many dif­fer­ent col­leges. New York Univer­sity, Columbia Univer­sity, both with out­stand­ing in­ter­na­tional pro­grams. Also Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, U of Chicago, and Bos­ton U, to men­tion just a few. At KIHS, she’ll be en­ter­ing her third year tak­ing Span­ish, so go­ing to a Latin Amer­i­can coun­try could be on the hori­zon for Wil­low where Span­ish is the dom­i­nant lan­guage. She said she would also be in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of learn­ing Por­tuguese, the lan­guage of Brazil.

At the con­fer­ence, Wil­low chose to par­ticipte in the in­ter­na­tional topic of gen­der equal­ity. She said, “I was sur­prised that of all the na­tions who sup­port the res­o­lu­tion in the U.N. of for­mally work­ing to­ward gen­der equal­ity, the United States is one of only seven na­tions that has not voted for the res­o­lu­tion!”

Wil­low has al­ready had ex­pe­ri­ences trav­el­ing out­side the U.S., start­ing when she was 10, she trav­eled to Paris, France, with her fam­ily, and just a few years ago, vis­ited Van­cover, Canada. These two trips, along with the U.N. ex­pe­ri­ence, have strength­ened her in­ter­ests in global stud­ies. “Maybe I’ll work at the U.N. some­day,” she said.

At the U.N. Youth Assem­bly, there were three full days of ses­sions and top­ics to at­tend. Aug. 10, the first ma­jor topic was “De­cent Work and Eco­nomic Growth,” pre­sented by speak­ers from the World Bank Group. Other top­ics in­cluded Cli­mate Ac­tion, Life Be­low Wa­ter, Life on Land, Clean Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion — all ma­jor global en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Thurs­day, Aug. 11, Wil­low at­tended the Gen­der Equal­ity con­fer­ence, co­or­di­nated by the of­fice of Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of UN Women. A plan was put forth ti­tled: Re­duced Inequal­i­ties, Qual­ity Ed­u­ca­tion and Zero Hunger, also ses­sion top­ics.

Fri­day, Aug. 12, the fi­nal full day off the assem­bly, Youth In­volve­ment at the U.N, and Af­ford­able and Clean En­ergy were the ma­jor top­ics.

Wil­low stayed at a dor­mi­tory at Pace Univer­sity just a few blocks for the U.N. Oth­ers stayed at Columbia Univer­sity.

The first evening, Aug. 10, a cel­e­bra­tion and dance was held for all the par­tic­i­pants. Ev­ery­one was asked to dress in “typ­i­cal na­tive at­tire” rep­re­sent­ing their na­tion. Wil­low wore a nice dress. Some­one asked Wil­low why she didn’t where a “cow­boy/cow­girl out­fit” to the dance, as that’s the stereo­type of Amer­i­cans in many coun­tries around the world. Wil­low, a long­time eques­trian and pres­i­dent of the KIHS Eques­trian team, laughed about that state­ment at the dance. She said that was about the clos­est thing to an eques­trian dis­cus­sion she had at the assem­bly with any­one.

Hav­ing been a mem­ber of Queen Anne’s County 4-H since she was 8, Wil­low has learned how to speak in pub­lic very well, hav­ing earned many awards in the an­nual 4-H Pub­lic Speak­ing Con­test. She also helped start a new club at KIHS last year, re­lated to the Gen­der Equal­ity is­sues dis­cussed at the U.N. The club, “The Pro-Girl Col­lec­tive,” fo­cuses on fe­male is­sues and causes: “im­prove self-im­age, fundrais­ing for breast can­cer re­search, in­for­ma­tion about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, even dis­crim­i­na­tion Mus­lim women have been fac­ing in the U.S.”

One of the fundrais­ers the club par­tic­i­pated in last year went to the Mala Fund, named for Malala Yousafzai, of Pak­istan. She lived in a re­gion taken over by the Tal­iban and be­cause she spoke out for full ed­u­ca­tional right for girls, the Tal­iban at­tempted to as­sas­si­nate her. She was shot in the face, but sur­vived, and as a teenager was in­vited to speak at the U.N. Mala be­came the youngest per­son ever to win the No­bel Peace Prize.

The fi­nal evening of the assem­bly a boat cruise was ar­ranged for all par­tic­i­pants. The ship sailed up the East River and along the Hud­son River. They saw the Statue of Lib­erty at night and went past El­lis Is­land in NY Har­bor, both sym­bols fit­ting of a U.N. visit.

Wil­low’s se­nior year ap­pears to be start­ing with a full sched­ule. Her re­cent global ex­pe­ri­ence may in­deed lead to a ca­reer. The U.N. ex­pe­ri­ence will cer­tainly guide her life for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, she said.

PHO­TOS COURTESY SYD­NEY PO­DRAZA

In­side the Gen­eral Assem­bly Hall at the United Na­tions. Top row, Left to Right: Carla Schröder, Mu­nich, Ger­many; Si­mon Schröder, Mu­nich, Ger­many; Manu Goswami, Cal­gary, Canada; Marie Mueller-El­mau, Mu­nich, Ger­many. Bot­tom row, Left to right: Molly Paul, Raleigh, NC, USA; Paula Domit, Mex­ico City, Mex­ico; Brit­tney Wong, Toronto, Canada; Wil­low Po­draza, Queen Anne, MD, USA.

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