Often when I read articles and news stories on current social issues, I wonder how a student like me could make a positive change in this world. I’ve never felt more encouraged to do so than when I attended the NAE-UNICEF Student Summit this June.
At this year’s summit, I was able to have inspiring discussions with NAE students from various Southeast Asian countries and the rest of the world. It was great to meet my fellow student ambassadors who also have ambitions to change the world.
Each day of the summit kicked off with speakers from UNICEF and student panellists sharing about their work as advocates of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Then we would break into smaller groups where we would have constructive discussions on pressing issues such as vaccine equity, mental health, education, and poverty.
I always enjoyed hearing what my peers had to say, especially considering our different cultural backgrounds. It was a bit shocking to hear about social issues that don’t affect us here in Singapore but are prevalent in other countries, and it was refreshing to learn what my peers are doing in their own communities. For example, some students have created mental health awareness podcasts, some are offering free tutoring in public schools, and others are using social media to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Each day of the summit I learned a lot from the other student ambassadors, and it was fantastic to come up with new ideas together. There were so many things to share, from information to potential projects, and I loved being part of such an eye-opening experience.
The highlight of the event for me was the Advocacy Workshop on the second day. It taught me the significance of effective planning and a healthy mentality when it comes to advocacy. During the workshop, we learned about setting a pragmatic vision, recognising our stakeholders, and listing out achievable objectives. What inspired me the most was when the UNICEF speakers talked about how they spent six years working to ensure voters rights in underdeveloped countries. It was an incredibly inspiring story for all of us attending the summit.
Other than being a student journalist, I was also a student facilitator for the closing ceremony. This summit not only taught us how to create a social impact but also inspired us to take tangible action, which is the most effective form of change. Practicing resilience and staying focused on goals is crucial, as is connecting with peers and partners. Having a positive social impact can be hard but I truly believe everyone can be a leader in their community regardless of their position or title.
All in all, the summit taught me a lot and connected me with many amazing students. What I’ve gained from attending is truly invaluable and I have never felt so empowered to make a change.
Now that UNICEF and NAE are officially partners, I can be sure more exciting programmes for students are yet to come. While this partnership allows both organisations to join around the world and raise awareness of SDGs, my role is now to share the knowledge I acquired during the summit with my school. In fact, it is up to students like me to continue advocating for the SDGs in our local communities and, together, we have the power to make a social impact and help the world become a better place.
Aini Zhou is a Year 12 student at Dover Court International School in Singapore.