Amilyn Rose Thomas, a senior at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, was chosen to represent the United States at the United Nations Day of General Discussion on Sept. 16.
It is impossible not to be impressed with Amilyn Rose Thomas, a 17-year-old senior at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown who was chosen to represent the United States with her address to the United Nations on Sept. 16.
Thomas delivered her five-minute speech during the “Day of General Discussion” organized by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in New York City. Of several speakers that day, Thomas was the only non-adult. In fact, the other speakers at the opening session were the UN Chair of the Committee for Rights of the Child, Associate Director and Global Chief of UNICEF and special representative of Secretary-General on Violence Against Children.
“I still can't grasp that I was asked to do that,” said Thomas, whose family immigrated to the U. S. from India in 2000, and is extraordinarily mature and articulate for her age. “I was so nervous. I memorized most of it. I went over the words again and again. There were 500 people participating by Zoom, which is amazing.”
Thomas was chosen because this year’s theme was children in alternative care, and she has made a name for herself on this front. Her nine -year -old brother, Immanuel, is a special needs child with a rare genetic mutation called Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, a disorder affecting various parts of the body. He has been in the intensive care unit of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for almost all of the past six months following complications related to seizures and respiratory distress, and she has become one of his strongest advocates.
“Amilyn’s experience of caring for her brother who has disabilities has made her a strong advocate of children's rights and making sure that children's voices are heard. She is also part of her school's model U.N. and debate teams,” said Mikiko Otani, Chairperson for the Committee, while introducing her for the opening remarks on Sept. 16.
Thomas attended a creative writing college credit program at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY, during the summer of her 8th grade. She was the youngest person accepted into the program after she submitted a children's book she had written. She also wrote a poem about Immanuel and his seizures, which caught the attention of many adults there, particularly Dr. Pavan Antony, professor at Adelphi’s School of Education.
Dr. Antony nominated Thomas to CRC's Children's Advisory Team, where she was selected to spend two years as a representative of the U.S. “It was amazing,” Amilyn said. “I got to work with children all over the world, which I think was the best part. I got to meet children from Pakistan and Nepal and a lot of African countries,”
At Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Thomas has done independent microbiology lab research, which propelled her to the cover of the school's magazine. A doctor at CHOP happened to see the magazine and invited her to be an intern at the hospital this past summer. She was the only high school student to be offered such an honor.
During the summer, Thomas worked with CHOP on 20 clinical trials, and enrolled and tracked many of the young patients there to see if they qualified for participation.
“I helped enroll the patients and categorize the trials,” said Thomas. “I walked around with doctors and checked up on patients with seven doctors. I got to examine them with the doctors.
“A lot of my friends were making money with summer jobs, but I would not have traded my experience for anything,” she added. “It was so wonderful and was actually a lot of fun.”
In school, Thomas also runs a club for Operation Smile, a non-profit medical service organization which does free surgeries across the world for children with cleft lip. She hopes to attend the University of Pennsylvania next year and eventually would like to be a pediatric surgeon.
But it is public speaking that may be her true passion, said Thomas, who gave her first big speech on Obamacare when she was just eight years old. “Both of my parents were big public speakers in India. It is very big there, and I became passionate about public speaking.”
Thomas is the daughter of Jose Thomas, a math teacher at Spring-Ford Area High School, and Merline Augustine, associate director of global CMC (chemistry, manufacturing and controls) compliance at Pfizer (maker of one of the coronavirus vaccines).
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org