Schoolgirl attends UN conference

23:00, Feb 06 2014
US-BOUND: Jessica Wong was accepted as head of the NZ delegation to attend a three-day conference at Yale University.

A Palmerston North student flew the flag for New Zealand as the only Kiwi at an American model United Nations conference.

Palmerston North Girls' High School year 13 student Jess Wong, 17, flew to the United States for the Yale Model United Nations Conference at Yale University in Connecticut, returning this week.

At the three-day conference more than 1500 students from Dubai, China, the Cayman Islands, Australia, England and the United States talked about humanitarian issues and international relations.

Jess was then picked as one of 40 from the conference to attend a Global Exchange Programme, where she went to a series of lectures from distinguished professors at the Ivy League institute.

Her interest in the UN was sparked after attending a New Zealand United Nations youth conference last year, called Youth Declaration.

"I really enjoy being able to be a part of, and getting to know about, changing global issues," Jess said. "Getting to really think about how we can make a difference just through the community and nationally is really cool."


She was put into a small committee with other delegates to rewrite some of America's constitutional conventions, looking at such issues as gun laws and privacy.

Delegates also fundraised for Kiva Microfunds, a nonprofit organisation that allows people to lend money online to low-income students around the world.

The conference centred on the theme "Think Globally, Act Locally", encouraging delegates to become more engaged with their communities and to develop a greater global awareness, said Yale Model United Nations secretary-general Grace Chiang.

For Jess, it was a taste-test of what a career in international relations could be like - she hopes to study law next year and has aspirations of working for the UN one day.

"Doing this has been quite good to see how things actually work with the UN, but obviously on a lot smaller scale," she said. "I enjoyed getting to meet people from all over the world and see the university and meet people there . . . it was incredible to hear people's stories."

Manawatu Standard