Written in bold white letters, draped across the necks of 450 curious teenagers were the words: “School of the New York Times.” Not only were these obnoxious red lanyards a warning for anyone that came near us to stay on the other side of the street, but also an invitation to explore the depths of the majestic city of New York.
After joining the Model UN team, I immediately discovered an interest in international diplomacy and productive discussion. This summer I hoped to engage with those passions. Seemingly, the course titled “Inside the UN, Journalism, and Law” was my top choice when applying.
Overjoyed by my acceptance, I counted down the days for my two-week long adventure. The city was waiting for me, and I couldn’t wait.
The first day of class started under the direction of Danielle Zach, an academic focusing on the United Nations. Her lessons gave us a deeper understanding of the value in maintaining international dialogue. Located across town, we were able to observe the building that houses the global meeting ground of progress: the United Nations Headquarters. In class, we administered a mock Security Council meeting, discussing current threats of violence. Stepping into the role of impactful diplomats, we all felt the same urgency to take action for peace.
Helene Stapinski, a glorified writer covering dozens of feature stories for the New York Times, took over leadership of the class as the syllabus shifted to the study of journalism. After receiving a brief overview of key techniques, we took our reporting skills to the foreground: a small community skatepark in the Lower East Side plagued with government neglect. We were directed to put our own twist on relaying the situation developing in the concrete playground. Speaking directly with the skaters, I was able to develop a connection with people I’d never met, understanding the tremendous impact journalism has on communities in sharing them with the world.
Finally, George Freeman, a former lawyer for the New York Times, took the reins. He allowed us to engage in debate involving ethical dilemmas and legal decisions. Taking a visit to City Hall, the Court of Appeals, and the New York Times newsroom, I realized how intertwined the law is with media and policy. Understanding these connections helped me respect the diligence of each reporter and lawyer ensuring the public of newsworthy information. Friendly debate on the proceedings of pretend court cases revealed the daily questions lawyers must consider.
Not only did I learn in the classroom, but each conversation I had with my peers deepened my lens of the world. I felt inspired by the number of diverse outlooks each student embodied. Travelling alone through the streets of New York, one can’t help but feel small and insignificant. But, with a group, the world seems unstoppable. I have no doubt that this experience has shaped me into a conscious, motivated individual. Through both friendships and photos, my time in New York City will never be forgotten.