Friday, September 10, 2010

United Nations International Year of Youth Launch Event

Are Youth Undervalued?
Written By: Luis, Cranston RI

Youth everywhere are severely undervalued. Most people never see the value in young people. They hold certain perceptions about children and teens that are just not true. They just write us off as lazy and uninformed. However, in many cases it is quite the contrary. There are young people everywhere working hard to try to change local and global issues. In fact, I myself am of these young people. I am part of a youth group aimed at stopping many global issues, such as Gender Inequality, Global Warming, Poverty, and HIV/AIDS. The youth group I am part of is called Youth United for Global Action and Awareness, or simply Yuga.

This past August, Yuga sponsored a trip to New York City to give youth the opportunity to speak at both the United Nations and an evening reception, which I was lucky enough to be part of. Two other Yuga members, Heather and Claire, also came on the trip as well. The purpose of the trip was to speak at the launch of the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding, which is the dedication of a whole year by the United Nations:

“[to] harness the energy, imagination and initiative of the world’s youth in overcoming the challenges facing humankind, from enhancing peace to boosting economic development.”

However, Yuga was not embarking on this trip by itself. We had tremendous support from Plan, the charity organization that sponsors and directs Yuga. Plan is a multi-national charity that works in over 40 countries around the world promoting child rights and trying to eradicate poverty through many different approaches. Since Plan is an international organization, youth from the UK also joined our trip as well. The youth from the UK were Katie and Emily, and yes they did have amazing British accents.

Katie was part of Plan UK’s YAP, or Youth Advisory Panel, which is similar to Yuga in the United States, while Emily was the UK winner of Shoot Nations, a London-based international youth photography competition. Shoot Nations was also planning to give a presentation at the UN, with the 2010 winners of their photo competition being the focus of their presentation. The trip was a sort of collaboration between Yuga, YAP and Shoot Nations, with amazing support and guidance from Plan, of course.

The entire trip was scheduled during the second week of August, as this was the week of both the launch of the International Year of Youth, as well as the Plan evening reception. Heather, Claire, Emily, Katie and myself, alongside with Corrie and Jo, our lovely chaperones, all made it to New York City two days before we were to give our joint presentation at the United Nations.

For the few days that we were in New York, we had the chance to visit the Boys and Girls Club in Manhattan, which acts almost like a second home to the many kids and teens who attend;

This picture, taken at the Boys and Girls Club of Manhattan, shows us giving “our hands” to the A Hand In Our Future Campaign, which is a campaign being run by Plan UK to remind world leaders that their decisions will affect the future of our generation. To learn more about it, go to

The Apollo, where we took part in the famed Amateur Night, which has a format similar to American Idol;

Times Square, a must for any tourist in New York;

And of course the UN, which is such an important and influential governing body for the whole world! We really saw so much that New York had to offer.

However, the trip was not meant for just vacation. There was work to be done too. The speech that we were to present at the U.N. had to be written and completed and we only had a few days to do so! From the beginning of the trip we all began to brainstorm the general idea that we wanted to convey through our speech. We all agreed to three main talking points: diversity and how it makes us more open-minded, technology and its effect on global communication, and the initiative of our generation to try to solve global issues.

Specifically, my portion of the speech focused on the increasing diversity that we all live in. I’m proud to say that I am the son of immigrants and so are many of my friends and peers. I enjoy the fact that there are people from all over the world that go to my school. I’ve learned so much about so many different cultures just through the people that live in my town. Things that previous generations would have scoffed at our now considered cultural norms. Our generation is just so much more open-minded. This new found tolerance is not just because of the wide range of people that we all live amongst, but also because of another huge factor in all of our lives: the internet, which was the focus of another part of our speech.

The day after we wrote our speeches, was the day we were presenting it at the United Nations! Our speech was to be part of a larger event, the launching of the International Year of Youth, which is a whole year being dedicated by the United Nations General Assembly to youth everywhere. Before we gave our own speech there were appearances various prime ministers and Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon. Obviously, I was nervous. I was going to share the spotlight with actual world leaders!

When the presenter called our group’s name, I was momentarily stunned. It was at that moment that I came to fully realize what I was about to do. I was going to give a speech at the United Nations. I would have never imagined that in my entire life that I would ever been given the chance to do such a thing. It was such a great and humbling feeling. Heather was going to give the introduction of our speech, but I was next. I heard Heather give me my cue, and then I walked up to the podium….

Yuga, YAP’s and Shoot Nation’s joint presentation at the United Nations
It is such an unbelievably amazing feeling voicing your opinion on the world stage, especially as a teen. Representing youth from all around the world, I felt empowered, knowing that my voice finally counted for something. World leaders listened to what I had to say. If some youth in this world managed to get politicians, prime ministers and a secretary general to listen to them, I think there can be hope for youth everywhere. Give us some choices, and I’m sure you’ll see that young people are much more valuable than what you think.


  1. Awesome Luis!!
    I will be starting starting a YUGA chapter at my school very soon. Somos Voces Somos Region was another really inspiring story. I really hope there will be more opportunities such as this for youth to voice their opinions beyond their local areas, meet youth activists from different backgrounds, and participate in activism events.

    -Juliet A.

  2. Luis! I am so proud of you! You found your voice as a activist and you are not afraid to use it! I know that you can keep YUGA strong at East and in the community! Don't stop! You're the best!