This month, representatives from eight of the world’s most powerful countries traveled to Germany to discuss global issues. But unlike many meetings of its kind, this one was for teenagers. A team of eight students from the Harker School in San Jose, Calif., was chosen to represent the United States.
This unique event is called the Junior 8 (J8) Summit. It is modeled after the Group of Eight (G8) Summit, an annual gathering of the same eight countries’ leaders. The participating nations are the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy and Russia. Each country takes turns hosting the event, where participants discuss important world issues and look for solutions. Both the G8 and J8 took place in Germany in early June.
Nearly 2,000 teens from around the world applied for a chance to participate in the J8 Summit. Only 64 were chosen. The American team was chosen for its proposed solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, including HIV/AIDS and climate change. After months of research, discussion and writing, the students were thrilled to learn they had been selected as delegates.
During the summit, the young delegates participated in workshops, discussions and activities to learn more about the global issues being discussed by the G8 leaders. One teen from each country had the opportunity to meet with President George W. Bush and the other G8 leaders to present their suggestions.
“I hope that the G8 leaders will listen to our ideas and adopt what they think can actually be done now,” U.S. team member Sudha Gollapudi, 15, says.
The J8 participants stayed on a ship docked off the German town of Wismar for the weeklong summit. With so many people and so little space, they became fast friends.
“We have 20 girls in the same room,” Kavitha Narra, 16, says. “But it’s great because we can talk and get to know each other better.”
Forging friendships with teens from other countries is a priority for many of the delegates. Says Gollapudi, “I want to interact with everyone, make a ton of new friends and maintain contact with everyone even after the summit is over.”
The summit lasted only seven days, but the young participants hope to have an impact for years to come. The U.S. delegates can’t wait to share what they have learned with their local community. They plan to hold an assembly at their school and to write an editorial for their local paper.
As optimistic as the young delegates are, they know that resolving serious global issues will take time. “You can’t fix the world in a week,” Kritika Kailash, 16, says. “We need to stay committed.”
To learn more about the J8 Summit, visit
www.j8summit.com. – Suzanne Friedman
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