In February, I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion at the United Nations during the annual Youth Assembly. Hundreds of young adult delegates from over 80 countries packed the General Assembly Hall for this special event. The two-day event focused, in particular, on the role of youth in implementing the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. For our panel on “Industry & Innovation in NYC,” I was joined by two representatives who embody just how young adults are impacting and being impacted by the breakneck technological progress that can be found throughout the Big Apple.
Kelly Peeler, Founder and CEO of NextGenVest, shared why she chose to launch a company to help young people increase their financial literacy and use simple text messaging to tap into helpful financial assistance programs (something that many college students can appreciate). NextGenVest is a graduate of the pioneering Grand Central Tech accelerator program that Microsoft proudly supports.
Wells Santo, a senior computer science major at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, showcased incredible work he is doing in the increasingly important field of machine learning. Wells is particularly interested in the intersection of artificial intelligence and video gaming. The audience was captivated by his demonstrations of just how well AI can play classic games such as Super Mario Bros.
Given the audience and their interests, we also had opportunities to discuss the role that Youthspark – Microsoft’s global initiative to increase youth access to computer science and transformational technologies – is playing in their communities today.
In addition to providing insight into their work, each of the panelists and I shared personal experiences and advice with the delegates. When it came time to wrap up the panel discussion, I let the audience know that we had time for just one last question. Immediately, 30 hands shot up. While we weren’t able to answer them all at that moment, the panelists were incredibly considerate in sticking around afterward to meet with delegates one-on-one to answer each remaining question.
The mission of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations is to foster dialogue and generate partnerships among exceptional youth. This year’s event clearly accomplished that goal, as I was blown away by the sincere engagement of a diverse array of attendees in our conversation. Even more impressive was the passion that these young people held to bring lessons learned back to their own communities to make a real impact.
Anyone in need of a dose of hope need only visit the Youth Assembly to find it in spades.
Tags: 2016 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations, Grand Central Tech, John Paul Farmer, Kelly Peeler, Microsoft, Microsoft New York, New York, New York City, New York University Tandon School of Engineering, NextGenVest, NYC, UN, United Nations, Youth Assembly at the United Nations, YouthSpark