2017 Winter Youth Assembly

On February 1st and 2nd, 2017, Katarina de la Rosa and Sarah Whipple joined US Youth Observer, Nicol Perez, in New York City for the United Nations Winter Youth Assembly. Here are some reflections on the experience and what they learned!

Which Sustainable Development Goal are you most passionate about?

Sarah: I am most passionate about SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) because I believe that it is a prerequisite for all of the other goals. Achieving the SDGs requires full participation and we cannot achieve a sustainable world if some sections of the population are excluded.

Katarina: The goal that I am most passionate about is #4, quality education. Education is such an interconnected concept, whether formal or informal, the only real way to bring about growth and development for the other sustainability goals, is through people being educated about the issues. Education is the first step towards a more sustainable world.

What was your favorite part of the UN Youth Assembly?

Katarina: My favorite part was hearing about how different people around the world were working on the Sustainable Development Goals in their communities; what worked and what didn’t and listening to different efforts by nonprofits. It was incredibly inspiring. Because of this trip, I’m now in contact with “Ideas for Us” and am looking to work with their team to develop a project in my community of Austin, Texas over spring break.

Sarah: Definitely talking with other young people. In the session on the refugee crisis, I spoke with a law student who leads a project to provide legal assistance to refugees. Stories like this showed the power of youth to address issues that governments struggle with. I am currently an intern at the International Rescue Committee, and I got to ask a question to the Policy and Planning Director of the IRC (literally job goals) which was pretty much a dream come true.

Why is it important for young people to be involved with carrying out the SDGs?

Katarina: Oftentimes young people don’t get involved because they don’t feel they have the experience to work on these issues, but it’s important for them to realize that it’s through involvement that experience is built. It doesn’t matter what stage someone is in, each person has the opportunity to make an impact. When I was 15, I had the opportunity to lead a 3 week humanitarian aid trip to Kenya, Africa. It was my first time out of the country, I was nervous and I hadn’t even graduated high school. I didn’t let my age or lack of experience inhibit me from working towards issues I really cared about, and neither should you.

Sarah: There’s this idea that young people are the future, but I think people often overlook the value of youth in the present. There are 1.8 billion young people in the world, and their participation is vital to achieving the global goals. If we think of young people as beneficiaries rather than partners, then we miss out on their experience and input.

How can young people get involved with issues they are passionate about?

Sarah: Tenacity is key here. Find organizations that you support and reach out to them! Many organizations already recognize the importance of youth participation, but if one doesn’t, do your research and present a compelling reason why your involvement would be beneficial. You can also join or start a GenUN chapter if you are attending college (shameless plug), it is a great way to connect with other young people who are passionate about similar issues!

Katarina: Literally google. If you’re passionate about an issue, google it! There’s a great chance that you’ll find out more information and a community that’s passionate about that issue too! Connecting with others to bring about change is incredibly useful and rewarding. It was because I was searching for ways to work on sustainability issues that I came across this opportunity to attend the Winter Youth Conference with Nicol in the first place. Don’t be scared, the opportunities are out there for you! You just have to take the first step.

Katarina and Sarah are always happy to hear from other young people and SDG enthusiasts. If you have any questions, comments, stories, or SDG puns for them, you can shoot them an email at skw160030@utdallas.edu (Sarah) or katd789@utexas.edu (Katarina)!