Throughout her college education, Myriah Bernard has been looking to combine her interest in diplomacy and love for world cultures. Thanks to her hard work and a shared Uber ride, next month, she’ll be doing just that as a student delegate at the 42nd World Federation of United Nations Association’s (WFUNA) Plenary Assembly and 3rd Global Youth Forum in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Since July 22, Bernard has been working as an intern for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. One day, during a rideshare from work, she was joined by United Nations member Ralph Johnson. They discussed her interest in working for the U.N. someday, and Johnson informed her of the Plenary Assembly.
“He gave me his information in case I had any questions, and said he thought it would all work out for me,” said Bernard. “A week later, I received an email that said I had been nominated by Ralph as a youth delegate.”
Bernard will be one of 5 students from the U.S. serving at the event in October. She says the youth forum is only in its third year, and she’s honored to be one of 15 students across the country to have served.
“It’s going to be really interesting to hear different minds come together from all over the world and try to find that happy medium,” said Bernard. “For example, the way we look at an issue is going to be very different from the way Ukraine looks at an issue. What we think of as an issue might not even be an issue in Ukraine.”
The WUFNA Plenary Assembly is held every 3 years, and hosts over 50 United Nations Associations from across the world. Here, representatives establish goals for the organization, as well as update and approve their constitution and by-laws. Some specific topics discussed will include establishing an international data sharing system on human trafficking activity, free primary education, and policies regarding the non-separation of refugee families.
“This isn’t a normal U.N. meeting that focuses on specific topics like education and human rights,” said Bernard. “This specific event is focused on supporting the U.N. on a higher level, such as tackling the upcoming year and working out challenges they face in their daily activities.”
Student delegates will also have the opportunity to vote in an executive board for the Youth Advisory Council, for which Bernard hopes to be elected.
Bernard will graduate from Southeast Missouri State University in December with degrees in political science and communication studies, and a minor in global studies. The following month, she will leave for Ethiopia to serve in the Peace Corp for two and a half years.
“For the first three months, I’ll have in-country training where I’ll learn all the languages and cultural practices and about my specific job,” said Bernard. “I’ll also be practicing language here on my own during these next few months, so I’ll go there with at least some language under my belt.”
Bernard said receiving support from her family and friends back home, along with watching her dreams play out, makes her hard days a lot easier.
“My advice is to never feel like your dreams are limited to possibilities. Everything is possible – it can happen. You just have to keep trying and don’t settle,” said Bernard. “And I think that it’s cool that I can actually give that advice now.”