Lauren Hernandez ’23

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York, NY

This summer I worked as a youth activist intern for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that works toward nuclear non-proliferation and the abolition of nuclear weapons through education, consultation and advocacy. This year was incredibly unique given the geopolitical climate: the ongoing war in Ukraine, the First Meeting of States Parties to discuss the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the long-awaited Review Conference on the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. I was also part of the youth initiative Reverse The Trend: Save Our People, Save Our Planet. Its mission seeks to amplify the voices of youth while addressing the threat of nuclear weapons and climate change.

Lauren Hernandez in the United Nations Cafe for the International Committee of the Red Cross.I had the privilege of attending the conference on the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in August at the United Nations in New York. It was an illuminating experience and allowed me to discover how the United Nations operates, even in a limited capacity. One of the most important roles I engaged in was reporting on the events and learning the rules and nuances that come with it. I was granted inside access to discussions regarding international peace and security and was able to meet and forge relationships with leaders and organizations in the field, who, for the most part, were working toward the same goal. However, civil society is not made aware of these discussions and issues in mainstream media. The monthlong review conference did not garner the attention of mass media outlets, despite the ever-present threat of nuclear war. This solidified the importance of advocacy and awareness raising and has dramatically impacted how I have envisioned the future.

Another project I had the opportunity to be a part of was the creation of a Reverse The Trend journal, which included essays, poetry and art from youth about the intersections between nuclear disarmament, climate activism, racial justice, social justice and hegemonic masculinity. It was incredibly inspiring to work on a project that showcases the work of passionate young people demanding change. The development of such an innovative and relevant journal gives me hope for the direction in which we are headed.

As a political economy major, this experience has equipped me with more knowledge and experiential education that I can bring to the classroom and ultimately the workplace. I am vested in creating institutional changes that will bring justice and equity to marginalized communities and voices. I plan to continue to advocate and become involved in policy making. In the immediate future, my research in my courses will allow me to gain an even deeper understanding and connection to the material as I seek viable solutions. This internship has taught me the importance of my voice and that of my generation. Youth voices matter, they deserve to be heard and they deserve a seat at the table.

I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to the Class of 1972 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, as this experience would not have been possible without them.