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Press Release

April 9, 2018
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NYC Junior Ambassadors Program Educators Win Excellence in Education Awards

- Borah Coburn and Joshua Katz of Icahn Charter School 4 in the Bronx and Michelle Jennings of Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy recognized for innovative teaching about United Nations -

New York, NY – Three educators in the NYC Junior Ambassadors program, an initiative of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, received the Excellence in Education Award from the Committee on Teaching about the United Nations (CTAUN). Borah Coburn and Joshua Katz of Icahn Charter School 4 in the Bronx and Michelle Jennings of the Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy (BSEA) were honored during the CTAUN conference at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on April 6, 2018.

Coburn, Katz and Jennings participate in the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program, which serves seventh-grade students across the five boroughs.  The program offers unique tools to educators, who integrate the United Nations and its work on the Sustainable Development Goals into their teaching to help students learn about global issues and make an impact in their own neighborhoods.

“The Mayor’s Office for International Affairs congratulates our NYC Junior Ambassadors program educators on this recognition of their excellence in teaching our youth about the United Nations and its vision for a better world,” said Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. “With dedication and creativity, these three outstanding educators are helping to build global citizens ready to tackle the most pressing issues of our time, starting in their own neighborhoods. Borah, Josh and Michelle inspire us all with their tireless commitment to raising the global leaders of tomorrow.”

CTAUN provides educators worldwide with opportunities to learn about the work of the United Nations and to incorporate this global awareness into curricula and school activities at all levels. The Excellence in Education Award honors educators who find new ways of helping their students learn about the goals and work of the United Nations in all parts of the world. Coburn, Katz, and Jennings are among five award winners selected from applicants around the world. “Participation in the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program has played a role in the ability of these two educators to select, implement and produce an instructional plan for successful learning,” said Anne Marie Carlson, Chair of CTAUN. “This award recognizes teaching professionals for fulfilling the CTAUN mission of providing students with an understanding of the history of the UN, what it has accomplished, and its current work for sustainable development goals for all. There is no better resource for our NYC schools to access than United Nations headquarters right here in their own backyard.”

Coburn, a resident of East Harlem, has taught English language arts and literacy at Icahn Charter School 4 in Pelham Gardens since 2015, and is an alumna member of the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program. This year, students in her classroom with co-teacher Katz are focused on human rights. In addition to her participation in the NYC Junior Ambassadors program, Coburn has also organized parent book clubs, scholarship fair nights, and school participation in a campaign to bring bookstores back to the Bronx, and taught middle school art.

"Working with the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program, I've become more self-reflective and fearless in supporting my students' self-empowerment,” said Coburn. “It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to see my students invest in creating positive change in the world and take pride in themselves as NYC Junior Ambassadors. Receiving this award just confirms that students and educators do our best work when we are encouraged to explore topics that spark our passions, creatively collaborate with each other, and empathize with our fellow humans to improve our world." 

Katz, a resident of Morningside Heights, has taught social studies at Icahn Charter School 4 since 2016, and is an alumnus member of the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program. He found his interest in social studies, politics and current affairs at an early age, and is excited to help students in their journeys to change the world. “It is an honor and privilege to even be considered for such an award,” said Katz. “But the real prize is seeing the development of our students into global citizens, and to have their work so beautifully displayed solidifies their ambition and dedication to the NYC Junior Ambassadors program.”

Jennings, a resident of  East Flatbush, has taught Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) at the Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy in East Flatbush since 2014, and is an alumna member of the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program. This year, students in her classroom are focused on climate change and inequality. In addition to her participation in the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program, Jennings manages the Ladies of Code, an all-girls engineering coding team. She is a 10-year veteran teacher who previously worked as a hospital administrator before changing careers.

“The NYC Junior Ambassadors program gives our students the opportunity to have a voice in our community and around the world,” said Jennings. “This award is an affirmation to us and our students that their work matters, that adults are paying attention to their actions, and that we want to not only see them but to also listen to what they have to say. Teaching students the role the UN plays in advocating for change for disadvantaged groups and shaping international policy helps students to understand that we are not alone in our fight for a better world.”

Since its launch in 2015, more than 1,000 students and educators from more than 50 classrooms and after-school programs have participated in the NYC Junior Ambassadors program. In addition to completing a community project that addresses a global challenge, all participants receive a curated tour of UN headquarters tailored to their class’s curricular interest, and experience a classroom visit from a senior UN diplomat.

“I am thrilled that our educators are receiving recognition for their tireless work to engage NYC youth in global issues,” said Aissata M.B. Camara, NYC Junior Ambassadors Program Director, Mayor’s Office for International Affairs.  “I have seen firsthand the ways that Borah, Josh and Michelle have transformed their students and communities. They represent a group of educators who have worked with me to make sure youth voices are harnessed and heard. Together we are creating lasting change and we welcome all educators to join us in the work of creating global diplomats locally.”

Students in the NYC Junior Ambassadors program have opportunities to attend events and meet world leaders that might not otherwise be available to them. Alumni of the program have addressed a UN youth assembly in recognition of World Peace Day, speaking on a panel with the UN Secretary-General,  participating in the first World Ocean Conference, and participating as featured speakers and artists at UNICEF’s World Children’s Day celebration.

NYC Junior Ambassadors also attend a special year-end celebration in June and receive a certificate acknowledging their participation in the program. Graduates gain access to an alumni network of young, future leaders, while participating educators receive professional training and materials supporting the implementation of their lesson plans throughout the duration of the program.

“Thanks to the diligence and passion of Ms. Coburn and Mr. Katz, the dream of grooming adolescents to be involved in social justice has been realized,” said Michelle Allen, principal of Icahn Charter School 4. “This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication put forth by both the staff and students for both bringing awareness to and creating projects around various societal issues that plague our world today.”

“Participation in the NYC Junior Ambassadors program has empowered our seventh graders to tackle challenges related to climate change,” said Angele DeFilippis, principal of BSEA. “Mrs. Jennings has worked tirelessly with our students to challenge them to complete the STEAM related work that is relevant to them and society at large. The BSEA community is grateful for this opportunity.”

The New York City Mayor's Office for International Affairs works to foster positive relations and encourage collaboration between the international community and New York City's agencies and local neighborhoods. The Office is focused on sharing New York City's policies and best practices globally, as well as responding to requests from foreign governments, the United Nations, and the U.S. Department of State. For more information its New York City Junior Ambassadors program, please visit and follow the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Medium.