Southeast Missouri State University student Myriah Bernard was recently selected to serve 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.
Bernard, a senior majoring in political science and communications studies with a minor in global studies from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is one of five U.S. youth delegates that will join the official United Nations delegates in the five-day assembly and meeting Oct. 17-21 to experience global citizenship and participate first-hand in strengthening the United Nations.
“It will be a wonderful experience to hear the great ideas from minds all around the world coming together on a joint cause,” Bernard said.
Every three years, WFUNA’s Plenary Assembly brings together representatives from over 50 United Nations Associations (UNAs) all around the world to establish the organization’s goals in support of the United Nations. Bernard was nominated for a youth delegate position representing 18- to 35-year-olds across the United States.
“During these discussions, the UN delegates collaborate to address each topic in how to deal with it in a way that benefits not just one state, but all states involved, and myself and the other youth delegates will be a part of that,” Bernard said. “I will be a part of impacting positive change and being a student delegate is a step in building the means to do just that.”
Bernard will attend the WFUNA Plenary Assembly soon after returning to the Southeast campus in early September from a summer in Washington, D.C., as an intern with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Pathways Program.
The Pathways Program allows students from high school through post-graduate level to gain valuable work experience and explore careers in the U.S. federal government. Bernard began her internship in early July and is getting an inside experience with a federal agency that helps people before, during and after disasters.
She works in FEMA’s project management branch, where she has opportunities to work in multiple subject matters, including creating interactive risk maps allowing citizens to see the flood risk in their area, developing communication strategies to work with each community based on their individual needs to help mitigate their flood risk, and interacting with contractors to make sure they have the appropriate funds and tools needed to respond to any disaster.
“Working for FEMA is a dream job,” Bernard said. “I can say that my expectations have been far surpassed and I only find myself more interested as I learn about the agency every day and their critical work and valuable mission.”
Additionally, Bernard has helped brainstorm project plans to implement in communities around the nation, including preparing disaster relief plans for the upcoming hurricane season.
Working at FEMA has allowed her to gain a better understanding of the functions of a federal agency, as well as personally contributing to helping the country, she said.
“I am learning a lot about constantly being prepared and being ready to leave at a moment’s notice to assist the areas in need,” she said.
Bernard will complete her internship at FEMA in early September, requiring her to begin her fall class work remotely in Washington, D.C. It’s a challenge, but worth it, she said.
The hands-on experiences she’ll have gained at FEMA and the WFUNA’s Plenary Assembly will prepare her for a career after graduation in December. She plans to put her international and governmental knowledge to work as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. Bernard will spend two and half years helping an underdeveloped region in their mission to grow as a country.
“I will be working directly with small shareholder farmers to help them on their personal goals for their farms,” she said. “I will also be fulfilling various jobs as needed, including helping with after school sports and implementing women’s empowerment in the region.”
Being a Peace Corps volunteer is another lifelong dream coming true, said Bernard. She’s looking forward to making a positive impact in the lives of others and expanding her personal and professional abilities.
“I will gain a better cultural understanding of a new area of the world. I will learn a new language. I will learn many new skills in both my job and adapting my lifestyle norms, but I also will learn a lot about myself and what I value,” she said. “I really wanted this for myself as well so that I can take a step back and re-evaluate my values before stepping into the global governance arena. It truly is a mission and a self-journey all in one, and I know as much as I give I will receive.”