Times-Herald Record: Exchange student at Middleton High speaks at UN

[A news report in Times-Herald Record]

Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 10/08/09
Top Photo

MIDDLETOWN — After two months in the United States, 15-year-old Aown Shahzad has already spoken on the floor of the United Nations and met U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and actor Djimon Hounsou.

Shahzad, who is from Lahore, Pakistan, is here as part of the International Student Exchange. He’s staying with a host family — the Norburys — in the Town of Wallkill and is a junior at Middletown High School.

As part of the yearlong application process to get into the exchange program, Shahzad submitted an essay on going green and climate change. His family comes from an agricultural background, and agriculture is a big part of Pakistan’s economy.

“We’ve seen drought and flooding in our country, and people are enormously affected by it, but they don’t really know where it comes from,” Shahzad said.

The exchange program adviser was so impressed he asked Shahzad to submit another essay to the UNICEF competition on global warming. The winners would go to the U.N.’s Global Summit of Climate Change. Shahzad was one of 13 students ultimately chosen; the others were from New York City.

For three days before the summit, the students worked long days, putting together a short documentary on climate change solutions. Shahzad used a variation on his essay for part of the voice-over: “Today when I witness the disappearance of mystical places I have never been to, of incredible animals I have never seen, and of rich cultures I have not experienced, I wonder what the future brings.”

The students greeted world leaders at the conference before giving their presentation. Shahzad met the secretary general, leaders from Uganda and the African Union, and Pakistan’s chief of climate change.

“It was very, very exciting,” said Joanne Norbury, Shahzad’s host mom. “The kids were fabulous.”

Shahzad said the students have decided to stay in touch. “We’ve also made an oath to write to the leaders, and see if they’ve done what they said they would do,” he said.

When he returns to Lahore in June, Shahzad wants to get the youth council there involved in global warming issues.

U.N. appearances aside, Shahzad is a regular 15-year-old, and he’s dealing with fairly typical questions from his schoolmates.

“‘Do you have McDonald’s?’ That’s the biggest question,” Shahzad says with a laugh. The answer? “Yes.”


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