High school students to get firsthand look at world of diplomacy Model OAS to be held in group's chambers

December 11, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Few high school extracurricular activities are as high-minded -- if obscure -- as the one that has captured the interest of Adam Roffman and Pikesville High School.

As president of the national Model Organization of American States, the 17-year-old senior will begin today overseeing four days of debates and diplomacy among high school students representing the countries of the Americas.

"It's not real well known, but we're the only political activity where we get to do our work in the actual chambers where the politicians work," Adam says. "Not very many people have heard of the OAS -- much less Model OAS -- but it's just an amazing opportunity to learn."

Students attending the 16th national meeting of Model OAS will seek solutions to problems facing the Americas in the conference rooms and the Hall of the Americas used by ambassadors and delegates at the organization's Washington headquarters.

"The OAS began this program to give students a better understanding of the OAS and its members," says Sharon Forrest, an OAS public relations specialist. "That's why the students debate the same topics as the real delegates debate, and they do it sitting in the same seats as the real delegates."

The OAS, one of the world's oldest regional organizations, comprises all 35 sovereign nations of the Americas. It aims to promote peace, democracy and economic, social and cultural development.

The OAS has a far lower profile in world affairs -- and in high schools -- than the United Nations.

"I didn't know anything about the OAS before trying out, but its obscurity kind of doesn't really matter," says Pikesville junior David Schaffer, 16. "Maybe the OAS isn't as famous as the U.N., but it's still extremely significant because it devotes resources to help a lot of people's lives."

Many high schools offer a Model United Nations extracurricular activity, but Model OAS is limited nationally to three dozen high schools representing OAS member nations. Sharon says many high schools are waiting for others to drop out so that they can join.

In the Baltimore area, four high schools will be involved in this week's meeting: Pikesville, representing Bolivia; Mercy, in Baltimore, representing Jamaica; Severn, in Severa Park, representing El Salvador; and Glen Burnie, which will staff the meeting's communication center and publish newsletters on each day's events.

Students will visit the Washington embassies of the countries they represent, learning about the issues from the ambassadors. The schools were randomly assigned countries in August.

Pikesville is sending five students to join Adam on the central BTC meeting staff, known as the General Secretariat. The cost to each Pikesville student is about $195, mostly for housing and food during the four-day conference.

Adam, who was elected president at the end of last year's meeting, will give a 15-minute speech tomorrow welcoming the student-delegates and laying out the issues they will discuss. He also will oversee the General Committee, which consists of the ambassadors -- or leaders -- of each delegation.

OAS officials and representatives from member countries are expected to attend the meeting, which is what draws students.

"I've done model Senate, and I've seen other activities, but this is the most exciting," says senior Alissa Levine, 18, whose twin brother, Dana, also is a member of Pikesville's delegation. "When students participate in model United Nations, they're not in the United Nations building, and they're not meeting representatives from all of the countries.

"We actually get to do that and sit in the seats of the ambassadors. That's what makes this such a unique activity."

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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