Student 'envoys' create a U.N. Model U.N. '97 welcomes 400 teens

November 09, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

The plight of indigenous populations in South America. The impact of armed conflict on the rights of women and children. Cambodia's possible transition to democracy.

Not the usual topics covered at a gathering of high school students.

But the 400 teen-agers from across the country meeting at the Naval Academy in Annapolis this weekend for the Model United Nations '97 were not typical, either. They were out to solve the problems of the world in three days.

"I'm into this kind of stuff," said Megan Flavin, a 17-year-old senior from Broadneck Senior High School in Arnold, as she represented the United States with a classmate in a human rights debate. "I like to know what's going on around the world."

No one will do anything with the resolutions that she and other students might propose in Annapolis, but the work may earn them kudos in international studies classes or model U.N. clubs back home, and many students said the gathering offered them an opportunity to examine the issues diplomats face.

Dressed in shirts, ties and blazers, or dresses and platform shoes, students from Maryland were joined by students from California, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. They played the parts of representatives from countries around the world. The students were identified by name tags listing the nations they represented. When they wished to speak, students raised placards bearing the names of the countries they represented. The aim of Model U.N. meetings, similar to debating clubs, is to take positions and persuade others -- other countries, in this case -- to agree. The student representatives took positions on such real-life problems as eliminating world hunger, the global market and solving conflicts, U.N.-style.

The students, like the adults they emulated, held caucuses in auditorium-styled rooms, with the representative of each country allowed to speak just 30 seconds at a time.

Sometimes, also like adults, the students got into heated debates -- until midshipmen in stiff uniforms and crew cuts banged gavels and told them to settle down.

When a proposal was approved, midshipmen threw the student representatives miniature candy bars as rewards.

"It's very active. People have a lot of ideas," said Sadik Kassim, a 16-year-old senior from Catonsville High School who represented South Africa. His mission was to grapple with self-determination for developing countries with student representatives of Italy, Germany and Kuwait.

Not everyone knew exactly what was going on all the time. Sadik and classmate Tim Wallace, 17, said they had to figure out how to jump into the fray.

"Hopefully, tomorrow, we'll be more involved," Tim said.

Weihoo Loke, a 21-year-old junior exchange student from Malaysia, said, "We give them the format; they will come up with a resolution themselves about how to make the world better."

Debra Quattrone, 20, a midshipman from New Jersey, organized the sessions. Starting in March, she mailed 200 invitations to schools around the country. She matched participating schools with U.N. member-countries and provided instructions to students on how best to learn about their new "motherlands."

For some of the participants, the interest was intellectual; for others, the trip to Annapolis -- which cost about $25 a person plus lodging, transportation and food -- was the attraction.

"I had friends in [the program], and I was told [participation] looks good on college applications," said Rachel Shields, 16-year-old junior at Annapolis Senior High School.

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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