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Sarah Hesterman inside the United Nations General Assembly Hall

Sarah Hesterman, a 2016 graduate of George Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS), is a “student of the world” who is eager to make an impact. While living in Qatar for two years, she started the first-ever Girl Up program in the country, and she has served as a teen advisor with the organization. 

“I believe that attending GWUOHS really allowed me to grow as a person and allowed me to take on these large leadership roles that I wouldn’t have been able to if I was in a traditional school,” she said during her  speech at the GWUOHS graduation this spring.

Sarah, who will attend Long Island University’s Global College this fall, was inspired to attend last week’s United Nations Youth Assembly because of her capstone project at GWUOHS, and she wrote about her experience:  

 As someone extremely interested in human rights and gender equality, I’ve always hoped to attend the Youth Assembly at the United Nations. The event is meant to empower young trailblazers from around the world to achieve sustainable development at both a local and global level. Youth Assembly speakers are powerful leaders from the education, health care, economic and environmental sectors , and there are different break out workshops in between plenary sessions that facilitate discussion focused on tackling the world’s greatest issues. It truly is a dream come true for someone who has always aspired to work at the United Nations one day.

The winter Youth Assembly is held during the week, so I  w as never able to attend in the past  due to my school commitments. However, b ecause I chose to go to GWUOHS for my senior year, I was able to attend the 2016 Winter Youth Assembly this past March. I had the opportunity to listen to some of the world’s greatest change-makers in the General Assembly Hall and in various permanent missions, and the best part was that I wasn’t even missing any school! I was completing homework and attending live classes from the train ride to New York City, the hotel, and even inside the UN!

When the event finally concluded, my aspirations to someday work for the UN were reinforced. After doing some more research, I learned that there was a summer session of the Youth Assembly, which would be overlapping International Youth Day. IYD is the designated day on which the United Nations celebrates the power and potential of youth around the world. However, I began to question whether or not I should register due to the event’s close proximity to the day I was leaving for university.

A few months passed after the winter Youth Assembly, and I had begun to work on my capstone (a requirement for graduation, in which we delve into a topic of interest and create a project based on our work). I decided to explore sustainable development and its connections to the well-being of adolescent girls in developing countries. Because GWUOHS gave me the perfect outlet to look into this area of study, I became certain that I had to attend the second Youth Assembly and share what I had learned from my project. I would not have attended the second time had it not been for my capstone project at GWUOHS.

 At the summer Youth Assembly, I mingled with more than 1,000 young people from around the world. I attended workshops that focused on how youth are the driving force for creating a more green and peaceful planet, and I listened to speakers like the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth explain why my generation plays an integral part in ensuring that the world will be a safer and more equal place by 2030.

 Sitting in the General Assembly Hall, one of the most important rooms in the world, is always an eye-opening experience. Knowing that it is the same room that hundreds of world leaders gather in once a year to make decisions on global issues is both awe-inspiring and humbling. Attending the Youth Assembly has truly been an incredible experience both times, and I would have never had the opportunity if it weren’t for the flexibility and support I’ve received from GWUOHS.

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