Students from Summerhill School have been invited for the past four years to take part in the United Nations International School conference, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The conference has been running for the past 40 years and hosts 700 students from around the world every year. In previous years eminent speakers such as Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Kofi Annan and Ms. Hillary Clinton have attended, sparking debates on global issues, as well as providing great opportunities to network.
Summerhill students have taken an active role in the debates as well as run and lead workshops*. In previous years Summerhill students have debated the reasons for migration, be it armed conflict, political turmoil or economic hardship and have examined the varying perspectives on the issues surrounding migration and to what extent other countries should help and support migrants. In other years students have taken part in conferences focusing on technology, Innovation and the future of work, the emerging water Crisis and most recently we were invited to take part in a debate on megacities and how rapid urbanisation is shaping our futures.
Students who have taken part in these conferences have gained a great insight into the issues of most prominent importance to our world today and the ways we can bring about social, economical, political and cultural changes to mitigate against future upheaval and threats.
The level of debate is always high, and students’ focus, interests and engagement highlighted the diverse range of skills Summerhill students possess. Students always leave the conference feeling empowered with a positive “can do” attitude about how they can take a proactive role in changing the future for the better.
It is always exciting seeing Summerhillians network with future leaders and diplomats and while there are financial constraints for some students who want to attend we have been proactive in reducing the cost by running a successful UN shops in school in addition to being very fortunate to have had generous donations from the A.S.Neill Summerhill Trust to support our attendance.
*An example of one workshop was how the structure of Summerhill could be applied to the creation of functioning and self-reliant communities within megacities.