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10 Watkins students attend Model UN conference at CU

Address range of world issues

Special to
The Odessa File

ITHACA, April 24 -- Ten students from Watkins Glen High School traveled to Cornell University to participate in a Model United Nations Conference this past weekend.

As over 1,000 students from across the country and around the globe gathered at Cornell University, WGHS students adopted the role of United Nations delegates on various committees addressing issues as wide-ranging as food insecurity, gender equality and space exploration.

The Watkins Glen students participating -- members of the school's Model United Nations and Global Issues class -- were (as pictured from left to right below) Austin Hazlitt, Kishan Patel, Jared Prien, Madeline Parker, Amber Benjamin, Kelsey Kernan, Ashley Caslin, Will Fitzsimmons, Rachel Davis and Dakota Cole.

The Model United Nations concept is an enriching experience for high school students who have a passion for international affairs, the exchange of ideas, and global solutions. College students from the Cornell International Affairs Society lead high schoolers through an understanding of international issues while developing public speaking and leadership skills. WGHS delegates were required to write position papers and communicate with their college student-adviser for feedback prior to the conference.

The conference days are filled with opportunities to network with other delegates from other schools while collaborating to write working papers and resolutions, which must be defended in committee before a vote.

The conference attempted to create an electronics-free experience for students. Laptops and cellphones were discouraged during committee sessions. All resolution writing was completed on paper by hand, and students were not allowed access to digital documents during the committee.

Rather than texting or sending snaps, students were encouraged to pass notes to communicate with each other during committees. There were several broken pencils and many cramped wrists observed.

Students enjoyed an authentic college-like experience over the weekend. Delegates were provided with itineraries and expected to keep their schedule while managing shuttles and public transportation over Cornell’s sprawling campus. WGHS students met with delegates from other high schools around the country, including several private academies, charter schools and prep schools.

The Cornell student-advisers managed to blend an atmosphere of strict civility and light-hearted fun. While strict adherence to civility was enforced with Robert's Rules of Order, delegates were also encouraged to purchase cookie grams that would be delivered to their friends in committee after a note was read aloud to the group.

Students were also dedicated to philanthropy throughout the conference, raising money for WaterAid, a nonprofit organization that works to build clean water sources and sanitation infrastructure in 38 developing countries worldwide.

A delegate dance concluded the weekend. Students from across the country and around the globe gathered at the ScienceCenter in Ithaca for a late-night rager upstairs and an exploration of the exhibits downstairs. One observer noted an approximate 10-degree difference between the ground floor and the dance floor upstairs.

The Model UN concept at WGHS was started as an extracurricular academic activity roughly 10 years ago by now-retired history teacher Marie Fitzsimmons. The success of the club led to the creation of the Model United Nations and Global Issues course. In the classroom students prepare for the Model UN conference during the first half of the course. Students apply their problem solving and public advocacy skills to a social problem in their community for the second half of the course.

Photos in text:

From top:

Top: On the bus to Cornell, with teacher Travis Durfee at right.
Second: The Watkins team, from left Austin Hazlitt, Kishan Patel, Jared Prien, Madeline Parker, Amber Benjamin, Kelsey Kernan, Ashley Caslin, Will Fitzsimmons, Rachel Davis and Dakota Cole.
Third: Team member Will Fitzsimmons addresses an issue.
Bottom: Team member Kelsey Kernan takes notes. (Photos provided)


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
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