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From SDGs to Action: A Student’s Journey at the NAE UNICEF Summit

  • 25 June 2024

The NAE UNICEF Summit brought together student delegates from Nord Anglia schools worldwide to tackle sustainable solutions for the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and UNCRCs (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). This year’s summit, held in Houston, Texas, USA from June 12-19, 2024, was an incredible opportunity to collaborate with over 120 student leaders, including myself (Rayhan Shanavas) and my fellow Oakridge Bachupally delegates, Sirisha Kshatriya and Shaaraw Darbarwar. Alongside eight other students from India, we came together to develop global goals we could implement back at our schools.

Day 1: Exploring Values, Dialogue, and UNICEF Child-Friendly Cities

The summit kicked off with an orientation by the NAE social impact team and a safety briefing at the Village School. Ms. Leslie Williams led a workshop on the importance of values and leadership, helping us explore and understand our strengths and weaknesses. We then participated in workshops by Generation Global on collaboration for global impact and building dialogue skills. Divided into groups, we refreshed our knowledge about the SDGs and UNICEF Child-Friendly Cities with UNICEF HQ & USA representatives. We were surprised to learn that Houston is the only child-friendly city in the US! The day ended with food trucks for dinner and a fun team-building activity.

Day 2: The World’s Largest Lesson, Data Power, and Houston Museum of Natural Sciences

June 14th began with a workshop by the World’s Largest Lesson, discussing the power of data and its role in understanding social and environmental trends shaping our world. We learned how to use data to effect change – after all, knowledge is power, and data is knowledge! We then explored systems thinking to connect global goals and child rights, considering the bigger picture and the importance of detail. We were introduced to the SDG Compass as a tool to guide problem-solving.

In the afternoon, we explored the Weiss Energy Hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, learning about real-life energy systems. We participated in a group scavenger hunt and admired historical artifacts. Dinner was at POST Market, a former post office offering diverse cuisines and a stunning view of the Houston skyline.

Day 3: Advocacy and Social Change

The importance of advocacy in social impact was highlighted in a workshop by UNICEF HQ. We learned about the S.M.A.R.T. Template for effective change-making, including pitching and implementing new ideas persuasively and sustainably. We presented solutions to case studies in our groups, followed by a one-minute solution event where we pitched innovative approaches in a short timeframe – a fun and challenging experience!

Next, we participated in the SDGs in Action program, applying the goals to real-world problems through presentations. In preparation for the capstone event, our regional group (India) identified key areas for improvement, focusing on empowering youth and children with disabilities. We concluded the day with group reflections, a heartfelt dinner, and a screening of “Inside Out 1.”

Day 4: BIS Houston, Social Impact Grants, and Peer Talks

Day 4’s workshops were held at BIS Houston. We toured the campus, exploring student-led social impact initiatives. Divided into groups, we attended workshops on public speaking and social impact grant applications. After a well-being break, we participated in peer talks, where student ambassadors shared their social impact initiatives and how they implement them at their schools. During the afternoon peer talks, I presented on Aequitas, a student-led EDIB (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging) initiative at Oakridge Bachupally, which received enthusiastic support. In the evening, we enjoyed dinner at the Rainforest Cafe followed by the new release of “Inside Out 2,” a film exploring the challenges of growing up.

Day 5: Inclusive Language and Houston Food Bank Volunteering

Day 5 began with a workshop by Ms. Leslie on recapturing our purpose, reminding us of our initial goals and what we hoped to gain from the summit. This engaging workshop used a fun game of rock, paper, scissors to set the tone. We then learned about the importance of using inclusive language to avoid paternalism and ensure respectful communication. As delegates, we practiced applying inclusive language by creating flyers and presenting them to others.

Following some time for capstone event preparation, we volunteered at the Houston Food Bank, the largest in the US. We contributed to packing over 17 pallets, 1,360 boxes, and 19,000+ meals.

Day 6: The Final Day – Capstone Event

The final day commenced with a quick last preparation for our capstone event where we dressed up in our traditionals, and then the grand event started after lunch for global solutions fair, where region-wise all the student delegates presented their problem statements and ideas in accordance with the global goals and child rights which was very interactive and interesting to discover table by table. Each team had an innovative approach along with all the concepts we learnt across the week in the workshops. We then had a final group reflections session, and a few of us were awarded from each group with the learner ambitions certificates which I myself was able to receive in my group. Finally, we all one had a wonderful dinner along with bowling and arcade games which we played at Bowlero, and ended the day.

The Experience We Take Back

Coming back from the summit, I now reflect on all the moments we’ve experienced, the connections we’ve made, and the new knowledge gained representing my school. The NAE UNICEF Summit this year sure was a success and an amazing week that gathered everyone around and I am more than grateful to be involved and given this opportunity. After 6 days of workshops and fun, there is no doubt that this allowed me to spread out my ideas more and expand my reach with others internationally. As one of the NAE-UNICEF Ambassadors for this academic year 2024-25, I now have a path to start through social impact and this hopefully can lead to a change that lasts for long at Oakridge Bachupally for everyone.

Rayhan Shahid Shanavas, Grade 12(CBSE)

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