Our mission-driven work of shaping children into responsible, global citizens culminates in an eye-opening leadership experience for our Middle Schoolers when they travel to the United Nations in New York City every fall to participate in the Global Citizens Action Project (GCAP). Last month, eleven of our 8th graders participated in the 2016 GCAP conference on October 23-26.
This week, we spoke to two of our current 8th graders, Isabel Egbert and Jean-Lou Paré, about their recent trip.

GMS: Tell us how your trip started

Jean-Lou: On Sunday we flew to New York. After we checked in at our hotel, we met some of the students from other schools. There were eight or nine other Montessori schools from different states and also the Dominican Republic. There were over 150 students at the conference.

Isabel: For most of the day on Monday, we heard presentations from many different NGOs [non-governmental organizations] about the work they are doing to help people around the world. Some of the organizations were Save the Rain, Vision For and From Children, Room to Read, and HeForShe.

Click Here to view a brief clip from the NGO presentation forum. Excerpt provided by chaperone, Joan Tao.

Jean-Lou: That day at lunch we went to an Ethiopian restaurant and for dinner we ate at a Moroccan restaurant. Later that night we met up with kids from two of the other schools and had a great time ice skating in Rockefeller Center.

2016 GCAP Conference - Ethiopian lunch

Lunch at Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant

GMS: Was there one aspect of the trip that was your favorite or was the most memorable?

Isabel: I loved being in New York City and everything about this trip.  For me, the most memorable part was visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It is hard to describe the feeling of being there, but it helped me put into perspective all of the people who lost their lives. At the memorial fountain, you can read the names of all of the people who died that day. What I thought was really cool, is that white roses had been placed by the names of people to celebrate their birthdays.

Jean-Lou: I agree that being there was hard to describe. It was just like the quote that we saw on the wall of the museum. I took a picture of it with my camera.  “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

GMS: Tell us about your tour of the United Nations building.

Jean-Lou: We visited the General Assembly Hall and an art exhibit about clearing land mines. We saw lots of different rooms and sculptures in the United Nations building and each had been contributed by a different country. On Tuesday, we also met with delegates from the Sierra Leone mission. One of the reasons we chose their mission is because our class will be reading the book, A Long Way Gone, later this year. It's a memoir of a boy growing up during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Isabel: The delegates from Sierra Leone told us about the history of the country and how it was founded by Portuguese explorers who gave the country its name. It means “lions in the mountains." We learned about the civil war that broke out in the 1990s and then how the Ebola epidemic impacted the country a few years ago.

Jean-Lou: Before the Ebola outbreak, they had a rapidly growing economy, but then, all of the international companies withdrew. They made some very strict health rules to help control the spread of the disease. The delegates told us about their country's current president, Ernest Bai Koroma, and how their economy is starting to recover. It was sad to learn that after the Ebola epidemic many of the children were left without parents. But the delegates told us that in Sierra Leone there is a belief that everyone in the village is responsible for raising every child.

GMS: Tell us more about what you learned from the non-governmental organizations

Isabel: Many of the people giving the presentations were college students and that made me realize you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference. Actually, there was a 15 year old girl who told us about the organization called Vision For and From Children.

GMS: Have you thought about which organization you will choose for your follow-up presentation to the community?

Jean-Lou: I hope to do my presentation on the organization Room to Read that was started in Nepal. I was surprised to learn there are schools around the world where the children don’t have any books to read. This organization provides books for schools to help children learn to read in their native language. The organization also works with the governments in those countries to help teachers and also supports the education of young girls.

Isabel: I am planning to do my presentation on HeForShe which builds awareness about the issues of gender equality and specifically getting men and boys involved in the pursuit for gender equality. I also think its cool that Emma Watson [British actor from the Harry Potter movie series] promotes this cause and is the UN Goodwill Ambassador for women.

GMS: How will you stay connected to this experience and share it with you classmates.

Jean-Lou: At the end of the conference we voted to decide which organization we would work together to support. We chose Save the Rain which builds water catchment systems for villages that don’t have clean drinking water. To start, we are planning to use the money we raise through the Middle School Rock-a-thon and the proceeds from the lunch we serve at the Greensboro Montessori School International Fair to donate to Save the Rain.

 On Tuesday, November 29 at 4:00p.m. each 8th grade student who attended the conference will give a presentation to the faculty and parents about one of the NGOs they learned about and its important work around the globe.  Any and all GMS parents are welcome to attend this event.
NOTE: Special thanks to Nancy Hofer, Doug Williams and Joan Tao for chaperoning this extraordinary experience.
2016 GCAP - Nancy Hofer

Nancy Hofer dines with Isabel and Elizabeth at the UN.

2016 GCAP - Doug Williams

Doug Williams joins the fun skating at Rockefeller Center.

2016 GCAP - Joan Tao

Joan Tao and her daughter Sophie on the front steps of the United Nations.