First Flight, Manteo students rack up awards at Model UN

By on March 10, 2018

41 students from First Flight and Manteo high schools made the trip to the ODU Model UN in Norfolk.

The First Flight Model UN Club has been busy this school year competing in three different Model United Nations competitions, and in the process, they’ve been bringing home recognition and awards.

Their latest entry into the world of diplomacy took place at the Old Dominion University Model United Feb. 15 through 18 at the Sheraton Waterside Hotel in Norfolk.

When one looks over the topics these students tackle, it doesn’t look much like the high school topics many of us dealt with in our glory days.

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Almost fifty students from First Flight and Manteo high schools have been working since school commenced last August, preparing to tackle a variety of international issues in three Model United Nation’s competitions at William & Mary, Old Dominion University, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Tyler Love and Summer Tonneson won Honorable Mention awards for their work on the Security Council representing Kazakhstan.

Whether it’s preserving endangered languages of indigenous peoples, preventing and eliminating child and forced marriages, working out a plan for the peaceful colonization of Mars, heading off the potential conflict between nations as fresh water supplies dwindle, or handling the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, these young students were immersed in the subject matter at hand and worked diligently to find common ground while faithfully representing the nations and historical figures they role play at each Model U.N.

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At the ODU Model UN, students from First Flight and Manteo high schools represented Botswana, Myanmar (Burma), Kazakhstan, Honduras, South Africa and Denmark.

Additionally, Model UN’s often include historical role plays, and the local students also found themselves playing the role of actual historical figures in simulations leading up to the 19th-century revolution led by Simon Bolivar in South America against the Spanish colonial powers and a 1984 revolution in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

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We tagged along with 41 students and three faculty members as the First Flight Model UN team (which included four students from Manteo High School) over the course of the four-day event to get a glimpse of how these young men and women handle crisis that their real-life adult counterparts fail to resolve almost every day at the U.N. headquarters in New York City.

The student delegates were led by First Flight faculty members Adam Herman, Susan Sawin, and Manteo High faculty member John Pouchot. These faculty members also oversee the countless hours of preparation students must put in before each Model UN competition.

Christian DeMarco and Christian Miller received Honorable Mention for their representation of Denmark in the UN Reform General Assembly.

Student delegates must begin by thoroughly studying the nations they will represent; language, culture, history, customs, political and government structure, their allies and enemies and how they have conducted their foreign policy and voted in international forums in the past.

They are expected to stay in character as they grapple with issues assigned by the ODU Model UN leadership ahead of time, including preparing position papers on these pre-assigned topics that are in line with the actual positions one might expect their country to hold.

That work is just the tip of the iceberg.

The next step is learning how the United Nations itself is structured; the committees and their roles, the rules of decorum and procedure, debate rules, sub-committees, caucusing, and most difficult of all, writing resolutions in a very formal and prescribed format, where a misplaced comma will send the resolution back to the author.

The goal is to try to get each committee (and there are several ranging from the Security Council to Economic and Social, Disarmament and International Security, Colonialization, Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, etc.) to find common ground and pass resolutions on what are typically three issues presented to each committee.

Delegates have to decide if their country is going to write and introduce a resolution or let other delegations perform that task and work in the background to allow competing resolutions to merge through compromise until one acceptable resolution is passed.

Honduras (front left) was one of the nations students from Manteo and First Flight high schools represented. Here they are hard at work on a General Assembly committee.

All of this must be done without straying from your nation’s real-world policies, which might preclude, for example, the U.S. delegation co-sponsoring a resolution with North Korea or Iran, or even caucusing with them in the hallways.

More often than not, delegates are unable to get competing resolutions merged into one acceptable “solution”, many nations, often the most powerful, such as the United States, Russia, China, India and others refuse to compromise with any faction and the committees will fail to reach any consensus, resulting in no resolutions being passed or even making it to the podium for a vote.

Student delegates work all day, with some sessions running as late as 10:00 p.m.

They are expected to dress professionally, be on time, and use of cell phones, talking to one another while sessions are running, introducing non-serious resolutions, or even putting one’s head down on a desk bring swift reprimands from the ODU staff.

During breaks, they caucus and meet in small groups, monitored by judges who see how well the delegations negotiate, stay in character, and work in a group setting to try to find common ground.

Many of them will find themselves speaking before as many as one hundred other delegates as they argue for their resolution to pass, and they are forced to field and answer questions from the delegates after such presentations.

Add to all of this the ability of the ODU leaders to introduce, at any time, a crisis in the form of news reports or announcements from the Secretary-General (the head of the real UN and a position occupied by an ODU student), and students find themselves dealing with a crisis they did not study beforehand.

Sometimes, as an observer, the drama can seem very realistic.

We sat in on several committees, especially the Security Council, which was trying to solve the civil war in South Sudan when an unknown group shot down a Russian military helicopter in the region, and watched First Flight delegates representing Kazakhstan, a former Soviet Union republic, deal with American and Russian accusations over who was responsible.

Over in the Simon Bolivar simulation, First Flight student Noah Howard represented Compatriot Revolutionary General Jose Francisco de San Martin y Matorras, considered a national hero in modern-day Argentina and Peru.

Manteo High School students, led by faculty member John Pouchot joined First Flight Students at the ODU Model UN.

The delegates had to decide not only how to fight Spain if they invaded to protect their colonial status in South America, they were also faced with keeping one another in check should they prove victorious. In addition, they worried whether Bolivar, the leader of the revolution would bring them true liberty and independence or if he would become just another tyrannical dictator.

At one point he told faculty member, Susan Sawin, he was contemplating moving his troops to raid the treasury of a rival faction, taking advantage of the distrust and discord that sometimes marred Bolivar’s attempt to unite the revolutionaries and focus on the ultimate goal–freedom from Spain.

At the awards ceremony on Sunday, First Flight and Manteo garnered the following awards:

Tyler Love and Summer Tonnesen received Honorable Mention for their representation of Kazakhstan in the Security Council.

Christian DeMarco and Christian Miller received Honorable Mention for their representation of Denmark in the UN Reform General Assembly.

Natalia Madison (not pictured) received a verbal commendation for her representation of the Sahel Region in the Council of Burkina Faso.

Prior to the ODU event, at William and Mary (WMHSMUN) Brooke Kelly received a verbal commendation for her work on the Argentine Cabinet of 1983, and our students carried away the big prize for the best overall delegation: The Michael Charles Coon Award for Representation and Diplomacy.

At Chapel Hill (MUNCH) thirteen students made the journey and once again, First Flight’s Model UN Club represented their schools well.

Tyler Love and Hannah Ellington received Verbal Commendations for their representation of Tanzania on a Historical General Assembly dealing with Rwandan genocides that took place in the 1990’s.

The work may be hard, but students have a good time and learn to bond as a team.

Brooke Kelly received Outstanding Delegate for her representation of Italy on the Security Council.

As the world becomes ever more intertwined, the students of today will be dealing more and more often with global competitors, colleagues, friends, and even, at times, nations at odds with our own in contentious and perhaps dangerous situations.

Learning about the world ‘out there’ today offers them a chance to expand their worldview and have a leg up over their peers as they compete and work in a truly global economy.

And winning some awards and recognitions along the way, and learning the skills necessary to earn that level of recognition teaches soft and hard skills that will serve them well in many life situations and everyday activities.

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