Youth Leadership Summit Opens in New York

Global Debate Winners Meet At United Nations, Learn Skills And Tactics To Confront Climate Change

New York, NY

July 18, 2008


Megan Rabbitt

The People Speak, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation, is holding its inaugural Youth Leadership Summit in New York, with events continuing through Saturday. Today, workshops on communications and technology are being held at Regis High School. Tomorrow, students will perform service projects and go on a closing banquet cruise.

The summit is focused on climate change and actions individuals can take to reduce emissions in their own communities. Convened in partnership with the National Forensic League and IDEA, the summit is featuring presentations and hands-on activities for high school students and educators, including access to UN officials and skill-building workshops. Nearly 200 high school students and educators from 11 countries are learning about how the United Nations addresses the many facets of climate change and how they can do their part at home. The schools represented are the winners of the Global Debates, an international debate competition focused on raising awareness about the urgent need to address climate change.

Brett Mayfield, a teacher from Madison Central High School in Mississippi, applauded the students’ commitment. “Students spent time before and after the debate discussing critical environmental issues with our school district, city, county, and state officials. It couldn’t have been a more encouraging and learning experience. All three local papers sent representatives, as did one of our local television stations,” he said.

Colin Sullivan, one of the representatives from Brainerd High School in Minnesota, was recruited by Brian Ashburn, who initially learned about the contest. Their team made public service announcements that they posted on They produced essays, wrote blogs, hosted a public debate and composed a song. “It was a lot of out-of-your-comfort-zone stuff,” said Sullivan.

Victoria Baxter, Director, The People Speak, pointed to the contributions the students have already made. “The Summit is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work. The creativity and dedication of the students is truly impressive, as are the projects which raised awareness in their communities,” Baxter said. In the process they have gained knowledge and skills, and imparted them upon others, as cities and towns learn how to collectively confront climate change. The experience at the United Nations will no doubt motivate the students to continue a path toward involved citizenship.”

Participating students and schools received credit for holding a debate, creating public service announcements, submitting a letter to the editor in their local newspaper or engaging with elected officials. Multi-media content, including PSAs produced by participants, can be downloaded at: Or visit our Climate Pledge Wiki at:

For more information, or to speak with conference organizers and participants, please contact Victoria Baxter via email at or 202.262.5065. For media inquiries, please contact John Anthony at or 202.778.1639.



2008 Winners of the Global Debates contest are:

U.S. Schools
Brother Rice High School – Bloomfield, Michigan
Madison Central High School – Madison, Mississippi
Kearney High School – Kearney, Nebraska
Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School – Beaumont, Texas
Princeton High School – Princeton, Texas
Santee High School – Los Angeles, California
Albuquerque Academy – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Anthony Wayne High School – Whitehouse, Ohio
Brainerd High School – Brainerd, Minnesota
Ottumwa High School – Ottumwa, Iowa

International Schools
Mircea Eliade Lyceum – Chisinau, Moldova
Gimnaziul Pro Succes – Chisinau, Moldova
Evanjelicke Gymnazium – Tisovec, Slovakia
Villa Maria Academy – Santiago, Chile
Nancho Popovich High School – Shumen, Bulgaria
Solvista Secondary School – Durban, South Africa