Eden Prairie resident Abdeljabar Sharif was recognized at the Intermediate District 287 Board meeting June 25 in Plymouth. At only 17, Sharif, a junior at West Education Center Academy under the WALT program, is already a world leader. Last month he represented Somalia at the International Model United Nations Conference in New York where, for the first time in 45 years, Somalia was represented.
The International Model U.N. Conference brings together students from more than 20 countries to discuss diverse and pressing international issues. According to the press release, Sharif was selected for the role after competing with six male and six female peers and practicing for more than six months in mock arguments. Upon arrival at the conference, he underwent two intense training days at the UN headquarters, reviewing rules and preparing for the general assembly debates.
David Vandenboom, assistant supervisor of the WALT program, said that Sharif’s trip to the U.N. was “an amazing accomplishment.”
In his debate, Sharif argued various solutions to bring greater education and wealth to Somali people, namely the needs for an international loan collaborative to pay for building schools, which the nation would gradually pay back. He noted that the country has one of the highest poverty rates in the world and that 95 percent of schools were destroyed during war, resulting in poor living conditions and educational standards for many. According to Sharif, the debate resulted in a resolution between the mock nations of Uganda, Algeria, Kenya and Siberia to prevent poverty and increase educational opportunities in rural areas in Somalia. His team earned eighth place out of 193 countries.
Sharif was joined by 11 other students, 10 of whom are from Eden Prairie.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from our friends in Eden Prairie,” Sharif said. “They want to come here, too.”
Sharif’s debate topic hits particularly close to home. His mother was a Somali refugee who fled to Kenya with her children to escape the war. Sharif was born in Kenya and immigrated to the United States at age 9 when he began to learn English. Additionally, Sharif’s aunt, Farrah Osman, is friends with the UN Ambassador for Somalia.
“We need young leaders today,” Osman said. “We have to do something.”
During the meeting, Board Treasurer Michele Kunz asked Sharif how he felt about being at the U.N. Headquarters.
“I felt like I was actually a part of the U.N.,” Sharif said. “I had such mixed emotions – nervous, happy, excited.” Sharif later said that the atmosphere was very hectic.
“It was like Wall Street, but with teenagers in suits,” Sharif joked.
Sharif aspires to use his leadership experience to influence others and change the world. “As a Somali minority, I was excited to represent my heritage and the possibilities for change that lay ahead,” he said.
“I am here to make something out of myself, and to help others. I want to inspire the next generation of students to be better than we are in this moment. We can do this, but we have to work hard.”
Sharif plans to return to the U.N. Conference in New York next year and said he’d like to study political science at the University of Minnesota.
Article first appeared on Eden Prairie Sun Current.