Michael Scott Peters smiling, with row of flags in the background (State Dept./D.A Peterson)
Michael Scott Peters, U.S. youth observer to the United Nations, at the Department of State in Washington (State Dept./D.A Peterson)

The two months Michael Scott Peters spent helping child victims of human trafficking in the Dominican Republic have given him renewed vigor to tackle the issue as the new United States youth observer to the United Nations.

Peters, 23, spent most of his summer after graduating from Utah State University in May volunteering with Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that supports child victims of sex trafficking. He was responsible for teaching young women entrepreneurship and self-reliance skills to help them start over and support themselves.

Charity work has always been a crucial part of Peters’ life, but he knows not everyone has the chance to make a difference overseas. That’s why he is using his new platform to raise awareness of global issues and encourage youth to get involved locally.

“I have lots of energy and excitement to make a difference — that’s what it comes down to,” said Peters, who is making history as the first U.S. youth observer to hail from the state of Utah.

The leadership skills Peters learned at Utah State, where he earned his degree with a double major in international business and marketing, helped prepare him for his new role as a U.N. youth observer. Peters was elected student body president in his senior year, which means he acted as a liaison between students and the school’s administration.

Peters will draw on that experience and use his platform to educate, rally and show his peers how to get involved in causes they care about.

“There’s things happening around the world, and I think youth in the United States have a desire to make a difference, but a lot of youth don’t know how to get started,” Peters said.

Role of youth observers

Since 2012, the United Nations Association of the USA and the U.S. Department of State have appointed a youth observer to boost youth engagement in global affairs. Peters follows Munira Khalif, the U.S. youth observer for 2017–2018.

His first major event as youth observer is the 73rd U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York City this fall, which gives him the opportunity to connect with his fellow youth observers from around the world.

Thirty-three countries sent 58 youth delegates to the meeting in 2017. Peters will represent American youth at other U.N. events and meetings during his term and will travel throughout the United States and overseas.

In the upcoming year, Peters will visit secondary schools and colleges across the United States to get a grasp on what students need, and he can’t wait to get started.

“I want to look back and say this is what I’m most proud of, for being a catalyst for change, just to see the tangible results, to see what we were able to actually accomplish in one year,” Peters said.

This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.