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York House School Student Presents at United Nations in Geneva

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Our Kids would like to congratulate York House School student Zoe for her outstanding achievement and dedication to bringing social issues to the forefront of the public eye.  Last summer Zoe, a grade 10 student at York House School earned a joint two-week internship with the David Suzuki Foundation and Justice for Girls, a non-profit organization dedicated to social justice.

York House Student Zoe at the United Nations

Photo Courtesy of Justice for Girls. YHS Student Zoe, 15 with Rekha, 13 at the United Nations in Geneva

This exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity culminated in the opportunity to write and present a submission in person to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children with fellow student Rekha in September.  In Geneva, as Justice for Girls’ Canadian delegate, Zoe highlighted the disproportionate impact that climate change has on children, particularly girls from poor and indigenous communities, and Canada’s failure to protect children under the UN CRC. She also wrote on the lack of youth representation in government and the injustice this presents.

The girls recommendations to the committee were taken into consideration, as members from Norway and Chile picked up the girls’ message and quoted directly from their submission during Canada’s review. When the UN set forth their concluding observations and recommendations a week later, environmental protection on a local, national and international level was mentioned as were recommendations on gender and girls in the justice system in Canada.

Zoe plans to continue her work with Justice for Girls, with whom she’s been volunteering since Grade 7. She is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project public hearings.

Zoe’s Interest in the Environment Linked to Her Roots

“I’m First Nations. The environment and protecting mother earth has always been a really big part of our culture,” she explains. “I was never fully knowledgeable about it until I participated in the internship with the David Suzuki Foundation. My eyes were really opened when I read the facts and statistics – it was shocking.”

Her work, dedication and passion for the environment caught the attention of the Executive Producer of a new Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) show called U=US. Due to her advocacy on girls and the environment, Zoe was profiled on the show. APTN was so impressed with her segment they invited her to co-host the show, which she tapes on weekends and after school. “We are breaking stereotypes showcasing aboriginal teens all around the world,” she says. “It’s fantastic seeing people proud of their culture.”

Zoe also recently spoke to over 300 union members at the women’s gathering of the Hospital Employees’ Union Bi-Annual Convention. Does she get nervous about presenting? “I get way more nervous about recitations at school then speaking about the issues like I did at the UN,” she says. “When speaking on behalf of all the children in Canada, their future and their children’s futures are weighing on whether you can pull it off. It’s scary that so many people are relying on you, but you also can’t afford to be nervous.”

In addition to public speaking engagements, co-hosting a TV show, and being an advocate for youth and the environment, Zoe is also a member of York House’s Globe Leaders group, Arts & Variety Club and is co-founder of the Glee Club. She also has plans to join the yoga club!

Courtesy of Karm Khunguray, Communications Manager at York House School

What questions would you like to ask York House School student Zoe about her experience at the United Nations? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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