No one is born being a citizen. You have to be taught what it means. Sonia Sotomayor
Do you want to know who you are?
Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.

Thomas Jefferson

On February 17-20, four students from Dickerson High School in Trumansburg, NY, traveled to New York City to participate in the 2017 annual Student Leadership Conference on Development, held at the United Nations headquarters. Each had researched issues and designed informed action projects related to the theme Domestic Abuse, one of three topics under the umbrella of the Sustainable Development Goals selected for this year’s conference.

During the first two days of the conference, students presented their perspectives and prepared initial Plan of Action drafts that would be reviewed and expanded during subsequent discussions with all attendees. Exercises included preparing selected students to be facilitators, whose job was to engage in discussion with students attending the final day of workshops and those participating via teleconferencing from international schools. Students also served as editors, who incorporated perspectives and ideas from all participants into the final set of recommendations.

Trumansburg students join with global peers in leadership training workshop.

At the conference, students from schools in India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of Georgia participated in discussions and debates on each of the three sub-themes. The final Plan of Action recommendations from this conference will be presented to the U. N. General Assembly later this spring.

Projected videoconference screen showing students from other schools participating in the conference.


I have been preparing students to participate in these annual Student Leadership Conferences since 2000. My role now is to work directly with teachers, helping them identify key resources, design and implement informed action projects related to each year’s selected Sustainable Development Goals sub-themes, and prepare for presentations both at the conference and in their communities.

Participant Requirements

  • Youth participants are required to choose then research one of the sub-themes that is selected each year. Students will study primary source documents, discuss sub-themes and available resources, apply guidelines and practice writing proposals and position papers, and practice effective communication, leadership and group collaborative skills.
  • Youth participants are required to design then implement an informed action plan addressing their chosen sub-theme. Cross-cutting interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged.

Students develop strategies necessary for the design and implementation stages of the action plan. Project design requires participants to use critical thinking and develop research skills, including both the acquisition and analysis of relevant data. This will require gathering data and information from other studies, from peers, and through discussions with experts. Implementation requires identification of specific challenges and tasks, and understanding of best processes for successful action plans.


Preparing for U.N. Student Leadership Conferences

Students participating in the 2017 Student Leadership Conference on Development.

Orientations are provided that prepare teachers and students who are engaged in informed action projects to participate in youth leadership conferences held at the United Nations in New York. Workshops and continued support include research methods, writing position papers and opinion pieces, developing leadership skills, rules of debate, and etiquette. Workshops are designed and differentiated to optimize both teacher and student experiences and are available both on-site and on-line.