UNICEF Participants Group Photo

Thank you, UNICEF National Council!

For this week's Volunteer week, we (Jen & Amena) want to say Thank You to the UNICEF USA National Council, for all they do, every single day. These people are some of the most talented, hard-working, passionate (and funny) young leaders out there. Sure we may be a little biased but read for yourself as we introduce you to some of the future (and current) changemakers.

Elise Phung 

Apart from being on the IMAC team, Elise is a star violinist, Audrey Hepburn superfan, and the council’s biggest movie buff (seriously, she’s seen every film ever made at least 3 times). A current senior at Plano East Senior High School (which now could go by Zoom HS), she is the mastermind behind “A Day in the life of a UNICEF National Council Member and the TOT office tour videos, as well as the councils most recent Handwashing Challenge TikTok!! Elise first got involved with UNICEF USA after hearing her parents' stories growing up. Her parents, both Vietnamese refugees, received aid from UNICEF. So she decided to join her school’s UNICEF Club freshman year and is now one of our incredible Council members! Elise pretty much knows everything anything about film and music (she can identify just about every movement of every Tchaikovsky symphony just by listening to it). Clearly, this is a by-product of having too much time on her hands...she'll also win every round of Audrey Hepburn trivia (seriously, she’s read every single Audrey biography since social distancing started)!


Kyle King

Kyle King, or the King of all things funny as we call him. He sure always has Jen and Amena cackling. All jokes aside, Kyle is a friend to all, and an incredibly kindhearted person! He is on the recruitment team or the best team as he likes to call it. His passion shines through with the energy that he brings to everything from the national council to his club, Cypress Bay. Kyle first joined his UNICEF Club, to help provide kids around the world with the essential opportunities and resources that they lack through no fault of their own. Having been taught the value of education at a young age, Kyle has always been troubled with the notion that any child would not have the opportunity to receive a basic education due to mere circumstance. Fun Facts: He loves classic literature (diary of a wimpy kid for the win!) and has a pet snake called Jake. Oh and maybe you will also catch him rock ‘n’ rolling on the clubs' Instagram channel (@unicefclubs). Be sure to request a song - he plays guitar! (you could even challenge him to a song about UNICEF Clubs!)


Omer Baker

Omer, a USC sophomore, is ride or die for his city. The city of Angels (aka not NYC). He is always trying to prove to Jen and Amena that LA is superior to NY. He is on the Internal Comms team, and as a senior National Council member, is a driving force on the council and a great leader. However, he is also very sly and very goofy. Often changing his virtual backdrop on Zoom to make the rest of the team laugh during council calls. He also has a talent for bringing up the Wizard of Oz in casual conversation to make fun of Amena’s home state. (We love you, Omer - this isn’t supposed to be a roast.) Omer has, from a young age, as the son of two Palestinian refugees, aspired to protect the world's most vulnerable children and hopes to further his ambitions through a career as a physician in the future. As a life-long supporter of UNICEF, he has been involved since he founded his high school club in 2014. He is also currently a US Ambassador on the UNICEF Global Youth Advisory Council. Something else to know about Omer is that he is an avid coffee drinker. His favorite is a mint mojito coffee from Philz coffee. (Don’t worry, Jen also thinks that is a very LA thing). Coffee is what helps him stay woke, and we’re positive he’ll want you to stay woke too and to keep fighting for children around the world!


Matt Grady

Listen up, y’all!! Here is one of the nicest people in the world! He goes by Matt Grady and is on the Recruitment Team. This fella is always uplifting everyone’s spirits on the National Council. He is the glue that keeps this team together (so Jen & Amena must protect Matt at all costs)! You can always count on him for a pick me up on bad days. And the best part is there are two of him (Matt is a twin)! Matt co-founded his UNICEF Club after seeing the lack of opportunity for students, to make real, meaningful change on a global scale. He now serves as President. He believes that the massive changes needed to guarantee all children the right to a childhood must begin with a movement led by youth! The UNICEF Clubs program is spearheading the movement, which is why Matt continues his work with UNICEF today! Matt is incredible at giving out advice - so if you need some words of wisdom or meditation app recs - hit up, Matt! (UNICEF Clubs Meditation sesh?) Also, as he is from North Carolina. Matt embodies real southern hospitality (he is SO nice). One like for this blog = one yes ma’am.


Ruthann Tesfaye

Ruthann not only kills it on stage with her dancing (this dancing queen is now stuck in quarantine) but also on the National Council! (Can you tell Jen & Amena are her #1 fans)!! She is our most famous UNICEF Clubs TikTok star, so let her know if you need any dance ideas (a club’s choreography maybe?). Ruthann is a full-force powerhouse with not only her dances but also with her ideas on the Internal Comms team. Her work centers around diversifying the club’s program. This includes reaching out to HBCU’s, sororities, fraternities, and most recently she has been working on a social bias training for the club’s program. She is always striving to empower young people to celebrate diversity and to see the value in their own voice! Ruthann, a current student at Virginia Commonwealth University, is a first-generation Ethiopian-American and grew up hearing stories about UNICEF’s work and its impact on children’s lives, which inspired her to start volunteering. Ruthann truly exemplifies bravery and teaches us every day how to stand up for ourselves and for what we believe in!! 


Emily Deng

Emily is truly the sweetest person you’ll ever meet! She is the archetypal Midwesterner, genuinely just so nice (sometimes alarmingly so for a New Yorker)! Just kidding!! In all seriousness, Emily is brilliant, creative, and has a true blue heart! Emily, who is on the Recruitment Team, is a senior at Mayo HS! Her love for children and passion for UNICEF’s protection and development work for children around the world drove her to found and serve as President of her school’s UNICEF club! From addressing healthcare inequities to protecting girls’ education, UNICEF’s work speaks to her belief in equipping all children with the resources they need to strive towards their highest potential. Emily has the best UNICEF Club event ideas (she’s put on some incredible fundraisers, including Mayo’s famous Movie Night! - read about it here and submit your own story to have your club highlighted via our blogs!). Emily is also an incredible pianist (she’s basically been playing since she was a baby)! Be sure to listen carefully, though, to everything she says! She’s soft-spoken, but she sure is always on point!


Kathryn Hemmer

Kathryn is a real go-getter (Jen & Amena are convinced she’s never heard of the word procrastination)! We’re sure she’s the type of person that gets a planner at the beginning of the year and actually uses it!! In all seriousness, Kathryn is a force of nature. Quick on her feet, analytical, and kind. She is simply unstoppable! Kathryn, who you know from the Retention team (and as the professor from the NC’s Handwashing TikTok - btw: follow @unicefclubs on TikTok!), began her journey with UNICEF in 3rd grade, fundraising for the Eliminate and Tap projects. She has since served as a UNICEF Young Ambassador and now acts as co-head for her New Trier's UNICEF Club. Global access to education and refugee rights are two things she is especially passionate about. She also loves trivia and games and has been organizing online Council game nights (so stay tuned for another club's game session!). Aside from all these things, she's also very talented at playing the clarinet and is a voracious reader (she never runs out of conversation topics & stay tuned for a UNICEF Clubs book club)!


Sumaya Alfath

Sumaya, a junior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is also from Minnesota (and yes, you guessed it - she loves winter)!! We’re actually not sure on that one, but she does love lakes and is an avid kayaker. Sumaya is also one of the most kindhearted and generous people Jen & Amena have ever met. She is a diligent worker and prefers to lead silently, mobilizing from behind the scenes. Most people think they are good listeners, much like they think they are good drivers (but we know that’s not true for many). Sumaya, however, is truly an exceptional listener. This is probably what makes her so empathetic, selfless, and community-oriented. She started her journey with UNICEF after joining the local UNICEF USA Congressional Action team in high school and later became involved with her school’s UNICEF club. Now she is on the National Council's Retention team. Last year she also served as a Youth Rep, and one of the many reasons why she loves UNICEF is because it allows young people to practice being global citizens every day. She hopes to pursue a career in public health and to use it as a way to advocate for children’s rights around the world! 


Henry Goldberg

Logic. Puzzles. Spreadsheets. All things that Henry loves!! The council’s very own excel spreadsheet wizard! As you can tell from his hobbies, Henry is a very methodical thinker. He was also the only person that asked for trail mix as a snack during national council training (which made quite the impression on Jen & Amena). Henry, who is a current senior at Vanderbilt, has been involved with UNICEF since 2014 when he founded a UNICEF club at his high school. Since then, he has served on the 2015-16 national council, has done a ton of advocacy work, and now is on the NC’s retention team. Henry’s work for UNICEF is rooted in his strong belief that every child has the right to a safe, healthy, and happy life. Henry is funny, sarcastic, and has a very witty sense of humor. Something else to know about him is that even though he’s from Dallas, his favorite sports team is the Red Sox (no Texas Rangers fans are laughing now). He also is a huge fan of rhetorical questions and enjoys a good debate (he wants to be a lawyer after all), and (of course) loves a good riddle!! 


Sara Ketabi

Sara is the type of person who’s always ready to speak up and speak out! She’s very polished, super fashionable, and always camera-ready! (Watch out ya’ll!! Jen & Amena are convinced that she will be running the world one day.) She truly is a true blue global citizen! Sara, who is a high school senior, says that UNICEF’s work in sustainability and youth civic engagement speaks to her belief that all children should be prepared to thrive in an everchanging world. Sara’s passion for international development first led her to get involved with UNICEF. Therefore every project that she takes on as part of the Leadership Development Team is a passion project. One of these projects is the UNICEF Clubs College Consortium!! Some fun facts about Sara are that she does both Persian and Arabic dance!! She’s also a professional at making ice cream and fruit smoothies at home!!  She even tried to make sushi twice at home, and we’re happy to say it turned out very well! Sounds like the perfect quarantine activity!  


Cynthia Yue

UNICEF Participant

Cynthia is one of the most exuberant people you will ever meet (her laugh is the first thing you hear on any council call). She is also one of the most passionate people EVER. She’s relentless, seriously. And she makes it look effortless. There is no stopping her when it comes to UNICEF. Cynthia, who studies International Relations at the George Washington University, started her UNICEF journey by serving as a member of UNICEF USA's Nashville Congressional Action Team and later even served as a Youth rep. She is an avid UNICEF supporter because she believes that UNICEF gives children a chance to survive and thrive. The stories of her parents' and grandparents’ hardships have allowed her to recognize the need to both invest all that we can into our world's children and to use our voices to speak out against global violence. She has the superpower of being able to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone (Jen and Amena are convinced she pretty much knows everyone on the planet at this point). She knows everything about UNICEF, is the most organized person ever, and on top of everything (always), and, of course, she gives everyone she meets a nickname (We are Jen the Mother Hen & Amena ElaQUEEN)! 


THANK YOU, National Council, for all your hard work! You inspire us every day and sure know how to keep us on our toes. We hope to one day be half of the incredible leaders you all are. 


Jen & Amena


PS: if you would like to connect with the council, please email them at council@unicefclubs.org






More from UNICEF USA

Recommended Stories