Girls from around world gather at UN

Newsday, August 11, 2011 7:47 PM
By YAMICHE ALCINDOR

Olivia Bouler, 12, of Islip, who became the

Photo credit: Charles Eckert | Olivia Bouler, 12, of Islip, who became the Audubon Society’s fundraising rock star, is interviewed by United Nations Television.

They came to talk about changing the world.

Dozens of young girls attending the International Year of Youth Culmination Celebration at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan gathered Thursday to discuss their passions, such as following their dreams and making a meaningful impact at an early age.

The all-day event, which brought together about 200 girls and young women, ages 10 to 24, was organized by AllyKatzz, a media company that operates a social networking website for tween and teen girls. It featured speakers, workshops, panels and two young Long Islanders: Olivia Bouler, the 12-year-old Islip girl who became the Audubon Society’s fundraising rock star; and Rachel Shuster, 15, of Dix Hills, who formed the Half Hollow Hills chapter of Kids Care Club.

Both girls, and 12 other attendees, received the A.L.L.Y. Award from AllyKatzz for their efforts and sat on panels at Thursday’s celebration.

“I think kids can make a difference because adults don’t believe in fairies but kids do,” said Olivia, who will enter seventh grade at Islip Middle School next month. “Anything is possible. Kids really believe that. I think sometimes adults lose sight of that.”

Olivia first gained fame two years ago when she offered her paintings to people who donated to the National Audubon Society in response to the BP Gulf oil spill. To date, she has created more than 500 paintings and raised more than $175,000 for the Audubon Society. She’s also published a book, lobbied on Capitol Hill for environmental reforms and spoken to schoolchildren in different states and countries about her passion for animals.

“I really hope people can be inspired and know that every little thing counts,” said Rachel, who will be a sophomore at Half Hollow Hills High School West next month. “It’s really amazing to have all these girls and women here.”

Rachel started her club in 2008 and now helps organize its 30 members to do community fundraisers and service projects, she said. Her group has raised money for a camp for kids with cancer and annually cleans up a cemetery in Huntington, she said.

Delegates to the event, held in the UN Economic and Social Council chambers, came from around the world and all played leadership roles in their communities.

Monique Coleman, an actress from Disney’s “High School Musical,” hosted the celebration. “I think what happened is that the girls’ efforts are being legitimized,” she said.

Denise Restauri, founder and chief executive of AllyKatzz, said she hopes to find more ways to give young girls platforms to talk about their passions and involvement.

“It was a great mix of women who are powerful and strong,” she said. “There are girls who want to change the world. That’s the story of today.”

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