Before joining this program I essentially spent most of my summer getting ready for the upcoming school year. This fall I am entering college, so I have spent most of my summer vacation getting accustomed to this exciting, yet quite nerve-wracking experience. Despite worrying about how I will adapt to this new experience, I have spent a good time of my summer relaxing, hanging out with friends and family. I’ve spent countless hours in the school yard down my block playing soccer with my brother and friends. Joining the Manhattan Multicultural Summer Youth Program was a no brainer to me, especially because I attended the program last year as well. Last year was a new experience for me; being able to come out of my comfort zone and being able to share what was really on my mind. The program showed me that my opinion was valued and over the past year, throughout my senior year in high school I have seen a sudden change in how I act, carry myself, and how I react to the world around me. Knowing that I have changed, I wanted to rejoin the program to see how I would react to the information differently than I did last year. I see last year as a test run, coming out of my shell. During this years program, I felt that I could act upon and take the information that was given to me and turn it into something I could use in the future. Also, this year I was motivated to memorize the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I must admit that I won the first prize in the competition with my friends. As I am entering college not knowing exactly what I want to major in, and especially what I want to devote my life to, I took this years program quite seriously because I am quite interested in the United Nations and in particular learning about culture.

As the two weeks come to a close I find myself quite upset. Fourteen days at school seem like an eternity, but fourteen days at MMSYP experience seem like a couple of hours. In a way I feel like the program should have been longer because I don’t think I have completely processed the information I learned at the United Nations and I have not learned particularly much about many of my peers. For one thing, I learned through this experience that conversations like the ones we had in many of our daily meetings are quite unlike many of the conversations we have in a regular school setting. Upon coming to this realization, I am going to miss the meetings we had everyday, laughs we shared together, and the intellectual conversations we had about the problems in the world and how they can be solved. Another thing I learned, that I don’t think I fully grasped last year in the program, was that my ideas are welcomed and respected. I used to think that many of the things I said in a group discussion were deemed rather unintelligent, but as the days went on in the program, the more discussions we had, the more I felt like my words meant something. I started to notice this when I would raise my hand and while I was sharing I would notice that many of my peers nodded and gave me eye contact. They not only respected me, but they processed what I had to say, and later on in the conversation referred to what I had to say as something they liked or agreed with. There is something special about this program in the way that in the two years I have been in it, all my peers have encouraged me to share my thoughts, and use what I have to say as a centerpiece to the conversation.

Regarding the information that I will take away from the program this year, I must say it is impossible to pick out every enlightening and inspiring thing that I learned, so for the sake of a short and to the point essay I will briefly cover a few. Since the program is called the Manhattan Multicultural Summer Youth Program, it already tells that the program will give you insight into other cultures and religions. Since all the students that join the program are either from New York City, in the vicinity, or occasionally from other countries, there are a plethora of cultures that are represented. To start off the second week of the program, we went to three sacred places, representing three different religions; this year we visited a Catholic church, Buddhist temple, and a Synagogue. In going to these sacred places, I learned that each religion, besides my own (catholic) is interesting and special in its own way. In particular I liked visiting the Buddhist temple because of how peaceful it was. Buddhism, at least how it was expressed in the particular temple we visited, is a quite different religion that any other. In practicing Buddhism, you are finding yourself, discovering who you are, you are the ultimate power of yourself and you make moral decisions based on Buddhist beliefs. What I liked about Buddhism in particular is that it really empowers you as an individual, it makes you want to change yourself in a way that can positively help affect the world in a certain way.

One other thing that I learned during the program this year is how vital our group conversations were. Every conversation we had was important because not only were we able to express ourselves in different ways, but as a group, the more conversations we had, we became more comfortable with one another and thus learned because of it. The open conversations that we had were extremely helpful because we were able to get out our true feelings about certain issues, and the fact that we could express ourselves in that way made the conversation not only more intellectual, but more worthwhile.

Being that I have been to this program for two years now, I can now say that I am more knowledgeable about many of the issues in the world and what the United Nations is doing to help than ever before. Thus is is extremely crucial for me to share my experience with other people I know, particularly people my age who can make a huge difference. Last year during the school year I shared what I learned from this program and from the United Nations, and inspired several of my friends. When I shared my experience with them they were amazed that they could get involved. This year I plan to share more information with my peers, but I plan to help them get involved, and perhaps get them to join next year’s summer program. Even though I can share my experience, it would be much more influential and worthwhile if they experienced it as well.



ALL human beings are born FREE and EQUAL in dignity and rights. 

-Universal Declaration of Human Rights