SUNIA – Seminar on the United Nations and International Affairs
SUNIA is a program that engages high school students in international affairs, and its success comes from the diverse group of participants. We want to provide scholarships for eight students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the program.
SUNIA, or the Seminar on the United Nations and International Affairs, is a week-long summer program held in Nordegg, Alberta each August. We offer two sessions of SUNIA. Our program gives students an opportunity to learn about the world around them and explore the ways they can make a difference, both in their local communities and on a larger scale. As an independent, volunteer-run non-profit organization, SUNIA is able to tackle a wide range of international issues through special presentations, small group discussion groups, and hands-on interactive simulations. We conduct activities such as an immigration simulation to teach students about colonialism and the immigration process, as well as a mock press conference to encourage students to think critically about all perspectives involved in an issue. At the end of the week, students participate in a United Nations Security Council debate.
SUNIA connects students to their peers from all across the province, giving them an opportunity to form networks, build community, and develop lifelong friendships. We also fly in two guest lecturers from the United Nations headquarters in New York, and so students get a chance to hear directly from experts about the work of the UN and problems facing every part of the world. Near the end of the week, students also participate in involvement workshops that connect them to resources, organizations, and strategies they can use to implement the skills they have gained during the program directly in their communities.
All of the programming SUNIA offers is benefited by having a more diverse group of student participants. Subsidizing SUNIA’s registration fee for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds not only offers them the opportunity to access all the resources and learning that SUNIA can offer, but it benefits every single participant in the program by opening them up to new perspectives. Students who could not otherwise afford to attend SUNIA provide valuable insights into their communities, their experiences, and their ideas for the future. We want to make sure that SUNIA is as enriching and accessible as possible, and this funding for bursaries would go a long way towards ensuring that is the case.
Who Will it Benefit?
The eight students who receive the bursary money will benefit from a week of discussions, simulations, and exposure to international issues they may not have had the opportunity to explore in depth. We often get bursary requests from students from small towns who are often geographically isolated from opportunities like this one, or students whose parents simply don’t have the resources to send their kids to camp. Whatever their situation, SUNIA inevitably exposes students to experiences that are completely unique, and many students report that SUNIA fundamentally changed their worldview. Harini Kav, a former student, described it as “one of the best weeks of [her] life.”
What is remarkable is how much energy and initiative SUNIA participants bring back to their communities. Students only attend SUNIA for one week, but those seven days often inspire students to get involved in a wide variety of issues. We’ve had students who left SUNIA and immediately signed up to volunteer at their local food bank, students who have given presentations about missing and murdered Indigenous women at their school assemblies, and students who have totally switched career paths after their time at our program, going on to work in education, social work, or politics. This means that not only would the money have a direct impact on students, it will also have an impact on all of the communities that these students return to and contribute to.
That impact is of course not limited to those communities, either. Getting youth engaged in issues, and making sure they feel empowered to actually make a difference, is something that has an impact on all of us. The more diverse voices we can engage in these conversations, the more productive and inspiring they can be. That is essentially what drives our mission at SUNIA, and that is why we are so passionate about keeping our program accessible.