Mater Dei Prep Students attend The United Nations International Day of Peace Conference


On September 17, 2021, the Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders program, in correspondence with UN NGO Pathways To Peace, had the opportunity to attend the 2021 International Day of Peace conference. This year, the conference focused on the idea of “Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World”, and the idea of not getting back to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic but creating a better world for all people. To view the program and list of speakers please visit

The conference was introduced by the Under-Secretary General, Ms. Melissa Fleming. Furthermore, the Secretary General, Mr. António Guterres responded to questions from students throughout the world. A major theme of the inquiries addressed to the Secretary General focused on education, and establishing equitable education for students throughout the world, as well as unifying and creating peace among all. Dr. Jane Goodall and Paolo Coelho both addressed the conference, and spoke on unifying all people, combatting climate change, and made significant comparisons between working together to combat climate change and the world’s united response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Midori, a master musician, spoke about making connections across people, whether doing so in a large way or a small way. All of our actions have one outcome, regardless of their scale – a more connected and unified planet.

Throughout the conference, “Educational Equity” was a major topic. The Mater Dei Global Leaders Institute heard from 10-year-old girl Nadine Abdullatief from Gaza, who spoke about the suppression of rights faced by Palestinian youth. The 10-year-old girl, and her school’s principal, Una Abu Safieh spoke about how they read about rights, yearn for such opportunity, but are yet restricted from doing so. We had the opportunity to hear from numerous students, all throughout the world. Three students from the United States spoke, one being a Sophomore at Mater Dei Prep and UN Pathways To Peace Youth Representative Cathrine Volk, who discussed the innate goodness of children and the impact of building a solid foundation for education in children. Altogether, the International Day of Peace Youth Conference has been informative to the Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders Institute regarding the urgency of ensuring equitable education for all citizens of our global society, combatting racism, and assuring that we appropriately combat the climate issues which are present in our world, because the youth have the opportunity to make significant choices to affect the world in a positive way.

Analysis of the Conference by Global Leader Members:

Margaret Fisher (MDP ‘23):

“I was given the opportunity to listen in to the International Day of Peace Youth Conference. The conference was about how the youth of our world can work towards peace. If we want to have peace in our country and in our world, then we need to work together to form our current youth and the future youth to become leaders and make the change that we need to see in the world. While Dr. Jane Goodall was speaking, she said something that resonated with me, “In this world full of conflict and suffering, my greatest hope is young people.” During this conference, a little girl named Nadine Abdullatief said “I want to live, I want to be a doctor, I want to help people before I die.” Nadine lives in a war-torn country, she is the future of the country and so are the other children that live there, Nadine is so scared for her life that she is talking about wanting to live. If we want the youth to change the future of our world, then they need to live, and this is the first problem that we need to fix.

Emma DeBiase (MDP 23) Junior Representative of Mater Dei Prep, Youth Representative of the Global Leaders Institute, and United Nations Delegate for Pathways To Peace:

“The International Day of Peace Youth Conference was something that nobody could ignore. It was inspiring to hear the speakers and a Mater Dei Prep representative of the Global Leaders Institute. A 6th-grade student, Nadine Abdullatief, from Palestine, inspired me to speak up about refugees. All she wants to do is live a life without violence. We need to help the children worldwide who are suffering from war, hunger, and poverty. The leaders of tomorrow need to be the force that helps change our world. That change would make a difference in society and how we treat others.”

Isabella Vargas (MDP ‘23):

“My reflection on the conference is that I am very grateful to be able to hear from students and peace builders all across the world. The conference reminded me that although there are still conflicts to resolve, we can solve them together and that my voice will always matter. Something I took away from the viewing was what renowned author Paulo Coehlo said about the future of peace building, and he stated that he sees how people are losing tolerance in the world and getting more closed off. He stated the best solution is “we can survive with respect to other human beings” and that really resonated with me personally, as this is imperative to life.”

Sofia Bustamante (MDP ‘24):

“As a student observer celebrating International Day of Peace, I was provided with the opportunity to listen to amazing people who have inspired me and reminded me of everything going on around the world. I've learned about innovative programs that provide and give to those who need them. I also learned about Paulo Coelho, a celebrated author who spoke about his extraordinary campaign called “Unite to End Violence Against Women”. I thank this campaign because now women have some type of safe place where they can go to. I appreciate all the great accomplishments. Little by little we'll see change for the good in this world.”

Keira McStravick (MDP ‘24), Youth Representative of the Global Leaders Institute:

“It was a great experience to hear from many people across the world from this amazing conference. I enjoyed hearing from speakers like Jane Goodall, Paulo Coelho, and young leaders from countries near and far. Many influential messages were mentioned from this conference as well as inspiring words. Education was one of the very crucial subjects spoken about during this conference, and I myself feel that quality education is a crucial need for the population of the future. Watching this conference not only inspired me to become a better leader, but also to take a big step into making action.”

Bethsy Lima (MDP ‘24):

“What I liked about the conference was many people had different things to say, everyone is trying to get their voices heard. Topics mentioned included gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, Global climate, endangered species, and their environments, cleaning the ocean, ending violence against women, education systems, etc. So many different things and that’s only a few categories out of hundreds of thousand problems.”

Erin Golding (MDP ‘23):

“While watching the International Day of Peace conference I was able to hear many great speakers talk about what is important to them. One person I got to hear speak was Dr. Jane Goodall who talked about how we treat the world around us. She said we need to have a good relationship with world and cannot take what resources we have for granted. She went on to say how the youth needs to protect our wildlife.”

Dylan Coleman (MDP ‘24):

“During the International Day of Peace Conference, I learned many things. The youth speakers were incredible, and there was one quote that really stuck out to me. It was from a 13-year-old boy in Florida and he said “When will we stop acting like strangers and be more like a family”. It’s incredible how a 13-year-old boy is noticing these problems and wants to resolve them in such a peaceful way.”

Abigail O’Sullivan (MDP ‘24):

“I was so grateful to be able to attend World Peace Day 2021. From attending I was able to listen to one of my closest friends (Cathrine Volk) speak. I was also able to listen to someone who I am hoping to be able to work with in the coming months. Being able to hear Secretary-General, António Guterres, speak was amazing as well as hearing him say how we need to face the issue of climate change which will affect my generation in the future."

Caitlin Cocuzza (MDP ‘23):

“I am a part of the Global Leader's Institute and I had the honor to listen in on a United Nations Conference as Representatives from different countries and States discussed their concerns about the world. I took this class to learn more about the world and to be a part of solutions that we could introduce. At Mater Dei Prep we are provided with the opportunity to be a part of this amazing program and use our voices, speak from our minds and commit our heart to help others around the world."

Garrett Nolan (MDP ‘24), Pathways To Peace Youth Executive:

“It was an excellent opportunity to take part in the United Nation’s Youth Day Conference during which Jane Goodall, Antonio Guterres, and a fellow colleague of mine, Cathrine Volk spoke on important topics like gender equality and women’s rights. We also discussed steps and courses of action to take to create a better future for the post-pandemic world. This wonderful opportunity was afforded to me by Mater Dei Prep’s Global Institute.”

Lucy Jackson (MDP ‘23):

“I was very inspired by the recent National Day of Peace Conference. The Secretary General said “diversity is a richness, not a threat”. In today’s society, diversity is said to be accepted, but there is often prejudice against other races and religions. Having diverse groups of people around you can give you different perspectives on life that you may not have seen before. It is important to get these new perspectives so that we can understand and relate to other people who might not have the same views. As a community we need to welcome diversity into our lives because like the Secretary General said it really is a “richness”.  

Nicholas Leonard (MDP ‘24):

The International Day of Peace demonstrated the necessity of peace from multiple perspectives and allowed me to understand just how crucial building peace is. Throughout the conference, one topic remained the same - education equity. It is simply not enough to eradicate issues such as racism, gender inequality, and environmental issues. Without fair and equitable education that allows children from all over the world to learn about important topics. All of the topics I have previously mentioned are critical to peacebuilding globally, however, it is most essential that we educate youth on these topics, to prevent the next generation in order to prevent racism, gender inequality, and climate change and diversify our world once again. The world is not restricted simply to one race group, we have a wide range of diversity and mistreatment of any race is an injustice to all races. Fairly educating the world is a necessary aspect of life. Another major topic of discussion during the International Day of Peace conference was climate issues. I have seen the negative side effects of climate change and global warming. It is the responsibility of this generation, and the generations which succeed us, that we steward this planet and take care of it. Earth is our home and will be for many years. We simply cannot deteriorate and use up all of our natural resources, leading to our planet being absolutely destroyed. Earth is not only our home, but the home of many species of animal and plant life, and abuse of it will have a significant cost. How can we justify that economics outranks plants and animals, which are living beings just as ourselves? It is our responsibility, not only to properly use our natural resources, but to ensure that we use a proper amount of them. We, as one consolidated group, must boycott any entities which abuse Earth and its resources, and take actions such as signing petitions and informing lawmakers that we do not support the misusage of these resources. Altogether, the International Day of Peace Youth Conference has once again opened my eyes to the necessity and urgency of ensuring equitable education for all citizens of our society, combatting racism, and assuring that we appropriately combat the climate issues which are being faced by our society, because the youth have the opportunity to make significant choices to affect the world in a positive way.”

George Anthony, Head of the Global Leaders Institute and a United Nations NGO Pathways To Peace Representative, stated “This extraordinary conference led by Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Dr. Jane Goodall and Paulo Coelho provides the perfect platform for our students within our Global Leaders Institute to prepare projects that can impact our communities. We are so proud Cathrine Volk, only a sophomore, was one of three students selected from throughout the United States to address the world from such a prolific global stage. Her selection as well as the commitment many of our students have in promoting solutions that benefit our communities is a powerful indication that good things are happening here at Mater Dei Prep.”

For additional information regarding the Global Leaders Institute at Mater Dei Prep visit or the Global Leaders student run web page George Anthony can be reached at