Sandra Mariam Shaji, from left, Sahara Christina Walter, Geofia Crasta, Sai Rushali Srivastava and Ninon Victoria Nelson from St. Joseph’s school have been selected to represent the UAE at The Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. starting on Monday. Delores Johnson / The National
Sandra Mariam Shaji, from left, Sahara Christina Walter, Geofia Crasta, Sai Rushali Srivastava and Ninon Victoria Nelson from St. Joseph’s school have been selected to represent the UAE at The Global Show more

St Joseph’s students off to US for young leaders event

ABU DHABI // Five pupils from St Joseph’s School have been nominated to represent Abu Dhabi at the Global Young Leaders Conference in the United States.

The students, who are all in Grade 11, were selected by their teachers based on their stellar academic and extracurricular achievements.

The UAE is one of 145 countries sending its top pupils to the 10-day leadership camp in Washington, DC, and New York City on July 7-16. One school from each emirate was invited to send its most promising students.

“The programme offers a wide array of developmental programmes that will actually help us become better individuals in the future,” said Ninon Nelson, a 15-year-old Indian. “It also offers many kinds of scholarship and college credit, which will help us in our education in case we want to study abroad. And, in a way, it actually develops us as a person. So while we read the portfolio, we saw this as an opportunity to expand our minds and to think at a global level.”

The St Joseph’s students, all girls, will travel unaccompanied by chaperones to Washington, where they will be paired with other student participants for the duration of the trip. During their stay the pupils will visit museums, embassies and take part in workshops aimed at teaching conflict resolution and effective communications strategies.

In New York City, the group will meet with a speaker of the United Nations and take part in a mock United Nations assembly. The programming also offers the pupils an opportunity to meet with admissions officers at some of the top US universities.

According to its website,, the leadership conference has been offered since 1985 as a means of helping pupils "gain first-hand exposure to the challenges of international diplomacy, build confidence and enhance decision-making skills in an atmosphere of mutual respect and that will challenge you to broaden your world view".

It has been held previously in China and Europe.

“I think leaders are made – OK, some leaders are born – but I think most of them are made,” said Indian expat Sahana Walter, 15. “For us right now, this conference itself is a huge opportunity. Many of us may not have been born leaders, but we will be one in the future.”

SK Srivastava, father of Sai Rushali Srivastava, 15, said his daughter and her four classmates are born leaders whose skills will only be strengthened at the conference.

“What this leadership conference is going to do is chisel their skills further,” Mr Srivastava said. “These five girls, they have honoured us – the parents, the school – and they are going to represent this country, which is a very proud moment for us. So we look forward to them going there and come back shining further.”

In addition to having near-perfect grades, all of the girls hold high positions in their school’s various clubs and student parliament. Two are musicians and one has repeatedly won first prize her school’s creative writing contest.

In order to attend, the students’ families pay the cost of transportation and tuition between US$2,895 (Dh10,630) and $4,985, which covers the programming, room and board and cultural excursions.

“It’s the experience that really matters,” Ninon said. “This conference will actually shape us to become better, if not leaders, individuals. It’s like a thing of humans to continuously improve yourself. You’re never perfect. Once you start thinking that you’re perfect, your life just stops.

“Now, five of us being exposed to something completely different, something we have never, ever imagined before, I think this is something that even money could not buy. Whatever knowledge, whatever memories we gain there … could actually change our life and change our future.”

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