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Delegates head to 2013 UN Commission on Social Development

An outstanding group of young people set out for UN headquarters in New York for this year's Commission on Social Development (Csocd-51) from February 6-15. The theme of CSocD-51 is "Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all." This Agents of Change delegation will be engaging in the policy discussion by developing and giving policy statements, working with other NGOs and youth, and finding ways to advance the SustainUS sustainable development policy position around CSocD.

Meet the delegates and learn more about their interests.


Olimar Maisonet-Guzman, Delegation Leader & SustainUS Policy Coordinator 

Olimar Maisonet-Guzman is a policy wonk interested in water, energy, climate, and sustainable development. She was a policy coordinator for the SustainUS Rio+20 delegation. In 2011, she was in Brazil studying the water-energy nexus in Brazil’s water framework. She is a 2009 Truman Scholar and a 2010 Truman-Albright Fellow at the US State Department. She interned at the White House Council on Environment Quality and has worked alongside environmental NGOs in Washington DC. In her spare time, Olimar enjoys attending international conferences to serve as a guest speaker or panelist in sustainable development, youth participation, and the nexus approach. Before arriving to DC, Olimar was the captain of the Puerto Rico's Epee Fencing Team and traveled to Asia, Europe, and Latin America. She is fluent in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Olimar holds a Master’s Degree in Global Environmental Policy and a BA in Political Science and Communications, and a minor in Economics. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico.



Leehi Yona

Originally from Montreal, Leehi Yona is a student at Dartmouth College, hoping to study Environmental Studies and Government. She is founder and President of the Green Schools Coalition of Montreal, an alliance of student leaders of environmental groups at the elementary and high school levels around the city, and is also helping organize Dartmouth's fossil fuel divestment campaign. She is interested in environmental and social justice issues at both small- and large-scale levels, having also been an organizer for PowerShift Canada and a youth delegate to the Rio+20 and COP18 United Nations environment conferences in 2012. At an Arctic nations conference in August, Leehi met peers from northern Canada and was shocked to realize the extent to which social justice issues exist in North America, particularly among those most affected by climate change. She is passionate about giving youth a voice and about the links between climate change, poverty, and development. She is a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec’s Youth Medal and was recently named one of Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25. In her spare time, Leehi loves to make Impressionist art and pottery, and (occasionally!) sleep. 



Daniel Cohanpour

Daniel Cohanpour is a sophomore at Cornell University, pursuing a BA in Government (with minors in Information Science and International Relations). He has for long been passionate about issues surrounding international development, specifically focusing on the role of government-non-profit relations in catalyzing or hindering grassroots social development. In the realm of development work, Daniel co-founded a charity - the Hackman Cohanpour School for Girls in Rural Cambodia - in 2009, with the primary aim of mitigating lingering threats of human trafficking in rural Cambodia through secondary education. Since then, Daniel has worked for various international aid organizations, non-profits, and consultancies in attempts to understand more about the mechanisms that go into foreign assistance and humanitarian aid. At Cornell, Daniel is a Consultant for Social Business Consulting Group, an organization on campus which develops sustainable and community-friendly programs for social business in lesser developing countries, as well as an Under-Secretary General for the Cornell International Affairs Conference. Daniel hopes to both contribute new ideas to various committees at the CSocD-51 as well as learn from international policy makers and aid workers about what goes into plausible and realistic social development change. Daniel cannot wait to represent the views and needs of the youth at the Commission! 



Natalia Rodriguez

Natalia Rodriguez is a Trilingual International Social Development Practitioner and Anthropologist with 4 years of Project Management, Partnerships, and Marketing Experience in the North America, South America, Caribbean, and African Regions. Originally from Colombia, and raised in the United States, she has always been fascinated in learning about different cultures and different ways of life. As an adult she has lived and worked in five different countries, studying abroad in Spain and France, working in Madagascar and the United States, and recently earning her Masters degree in Social Development Practice in the United Kingdom. She is planning on moving to Colombia to gain some field experience working with social issues for youths in marginalized communities. 



Ashley Barnes

Ashley Barnes is a recent graduate of Hamline University with an Honors degree in Middle East Studies and History, an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow, and Youth Delegate to the 51st Commission for Social Development with SustainUS. Ashley has been interested in the United Nations since high school, having both participated in and taught Model UN as well as completed an internship with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Cairo, Egypt. She currently works with the Minnesota Youth Council, helping to expand youth voice in policymaking circles across the state. She also hopes to enter a Masters program at the University of Edinburgh in the fall, and to write a thesis dealing with the extent of democratic structures within Islamist organizations. Ashley is particularly interested in democratic theory, and how the marginalization of various groups affects full participation in democracy. When she has free time Ashley loves traveling, good food and movies, and her favorite books are the His Dark Materials trilogy and anything George Orwell has ever written. During this Commission, she is excited to participate in conversations related to youth participation and social empowerment.



David Horacio Hernandez

David Horacio Hernandez is from Los Angeles, California and is a first-generation college senior at the University of Southern California (USC) majoring in political science and American studies & ethnicity, with an emphasis in law and public policy.  Some of his interests include: social justice, politics, education reform, economic development, and public service. Currently he serves as the Clinton Global Initiative University campus representative for USC. He also serves as the civic engagement director for the Latino Student Assembly at USC. Just last year David was recognized as a White House Champion of Change by the Obama Administration for his work on education reform. He was also one of six students at USC to receive the Truman Fellowship nomination. Lastly, he has been selected into the 2013 Teach For America Corps upon graduation, assigned to teach in Los Angeles. 



Marlene Chavez

Marlene Chavez graduated from Kalamazoo College where she received a BA in Anthropology/Sociology with a concentration in Media Studies. For her senior thesis she created a documentary film with Rachel Udow called “Las Manos” a case study on single mothers in the Rio Grande Valley (located in South Texas along the border region). After graduation she was awarded a Blueprint for Social Justice Grant by the Young People For (YP4) Foundation to provide computer technical resources to indigenous communities in Quito, Ecuador. Marlene also taught 6th and 7th grade English and Science at Cambridge Integral del Pacifico. She then returned to her home, the Rio Grande Valley, also known as “El Valle”, where she is currently working as the Colonias Policy Analyst/Educator at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. There she conducts policy research, outreach, and assists attorneys with cases in the areas of housing, employment, and immigration. Aside from this,  she is a Marguerite Casey Foundation Grantee and a member of the RGV-Equal Voice Network where she is part of the Housing and Immigration Working Groups and co-chair of the Jobs/Economic Stability Working group. Recently, she was selected to be a board member for Community in Schools of Cameron County and is partaking on a policy paper project with the NURV immigration group titled: “Educational Opportunities for Aspiring Citizens in Rural Areas”.  Marlene is very excited to be part of the CsocD 51st Session.



Joelle Gamble

Joelle Gamble is the Deputy Field Director for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, an organization dedicated to engaging young people in the policy writing and implementation process. Prior to this role, as a student organizer in the University of California Student Association, she worked on numerous political campaigns related to tax reform and lobbied extensively. As a political organizer, she has appeared in over 40 articles and television segments, including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Gate, NBC, ABC and CBS. While still an undergraduate student, Joelle also worked as a paid federal employee with the consular community in Los Angeles for two years at the U.S. Department of State, Office of Foreign Missions. In addition, she has served as the a French language research assistant with the UCLA Department of Economics, working on the history and development of North African trade routes. She graduated from UCLA in 2012 Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in International Development Studies. This June, Joelle will enter the New York 2013 class of StartingBloc fellows.


Surya Karki

Surya Karki is a member of the board of directors and co-founder of Maya Universe Academy, which is an organization providing free education to kids in three different villages of Nepal. He is currently enrolled as a freshman at the College of the Atlantic, where he is focusing on economics, and international environmental diplomacy. In 2011, after the completion of an action plan “Maya Farm”, he was officially recognized as a UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador. Last winter he received the Rothschild Fund for Research, to study the economic landscape of Yucatan Peninsula. He is also a member of Earth in Brackets, a student organization at COA, which actively takes part in international environment policy negotiations. He will be attending the Clinton Global Initiative for University to be held in April of 2013. As a delegate for SustainUS Surya hopes to contribute and follow the happenings at the conference, being as critical as possible. He aims to “Inspire While Being Inspired.


Amelia Brown

Amelia Brown graduated from Cornell University in 2012, where she received a BS in Fiber Science and Apparel Design, focusing on Women’s Luxury Ready-to-Wear. At Cornell she was a YMA Geoffrey Beene Scholar, a Kuhlman Scholar, and a member of the Sphinx Head Society. When she wasn’t sewing clothes for her major at Cornell, she was involved in academic investigations of the semiology of Middle Eastern dress. During college she was rewarded the Critical Languages Scholarship for three years from the U.S. Department of State and studied intensive Arabic in Tunisia and Egypt. She has interned for apparel companies in Bombay and NYC. Her interest lies in the intersection of luxury apparel and global development, with an emphasis on the preservation and perpetuation of artisanal heritages. She currently lives in NYC and is working with a startup called Maiyet, which in collaboration with the NGO Nest creates luxury clothing by harnessing the traditions and hand-work of artisans across the globe. She aspires to be creative director of a sustainable global clothing brand. At the commission she looks forward to learning more deeply about the social and economic factors that impact development.



Amy Frieder

Amy Frieder is a sophomore at Cornell University studying in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. An organizing member of the Cornell Organization for Labor Action, an affiliate of United Students Against Sweatshops, Amy is committed to economic and social justice and hopes to contribute to conversations related to full employment and decent work while a part of the CsocD and bring those conversations back as a newly elected student representative to the Workers Institute at Cornell, a forum for research and education on contemporary labor issues. Minoring in International Relations and Near Eastern Studies, Amy is a policy analyst for the Cornell Roosevelt Institute, a student-run public policy think tank, in the Center for Foreign Policy and International Studies. Her policy proposal on incentivizing investment in companies run by Arab women in the Middle East in order to empower them to achieve equal gender rights, encourage democracy development, and improve the state of the economy was selected to appear in the national 10 Ideas journal. Hailing from the Washington, D.C. area, Amy likes to check out the nation’s capital or travel elsewhere in her spare time, exploring history, food, and culture. She is very excited to be a part of the SustainUS delegation to the CsocD!

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