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Camila Arguedas Najarro ’19, from Flamingo, Costa Rica, was selected to participate in the prestigious Athens Democracy Forum, a conference convened by The New York Times in Athens this past September, where international leaders and policymakers debated a wide range of issues affecting global political health.

The theme of this year’s forum – Democracy in Danger: Solutions for a Changing World – not only focused on democracy around the world but also on factors such as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly. Influential individuals who were present at the Forum include H.E. Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique; Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director of the World Justice Project; Thulisile Nomkhosi Madonsela, Law Trust Chair in Social Justice and law professor at Stellenbosch University; and renowned artist Ai Weiwei. The event was hosted by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen and 1991 Pulizer Prize Winner Serge Schmemann.

It was the distinctiveness of Camila’s major in Social Justice and Sustainability with an emphasis in Environmental Justice that made her a standout candidate during the application process. “I believe that one of the traits that helped me in the candidates’ selection was the uniqueness of my major: a liberal arts self-designed program that allows students to explore multiple disciplines at the same time, so as to have a more well-rounded understanding of the world around us, complemented by the opportunity to experience the places we study thanks to Franklin’s Academic Travel program.”

In addition to the Forum, Camila was also one of the members of the Youth Democracy Forum (YDF) which took place a few days before and after the Athens Forum. As she remarked, “The YDF, sponsored by the Global Liberal Arts Alliance and The American College of Greece, served as preparation for the conference, as we had to produce white papers from a luncheon discussion on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and provide detailed notes from specific sessions to New York Times journalists and The Jefferson Center.”

According to Camila, the most rewarding part of such a special experience was “getting to know 20 other university students from all around the world with completely different backgrounds, who were passionate, intelligent, inclusive, and ready to take action to change the world. I also learned that, as a young professional, I should make sure that my voice is heard and should not be afraid to express the point of view of the younger generations, especially nowadays because the world is rapidly changing and facing challenges it has not faced before.”

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