Five students from Marion High School stepped onto the world stage Friday as delegates to the Model United Nations conference at Wichita State University.
The Wichita Area Model U.N. is a simulation in which high school students take on the role of international diplomats serving on U.N. committees. Students draft and debate resolutions on global problems from the perspective of countries they have chosen to represent.
Sherri Sells, Marion County special education gifted facilitator for the Extended Learning Program, was the group’s sponsor.
“High school students getting together to solve real-world problems — how often do they have the opportunity to do that?” Sells asked.
Only one student at Marion High School is part of Sells’ 24-student load across the county, but Model U.N. teams have three members.
“Because we need teams, I open it up to other kids,” Sells said. “We had two teams. This is something they’re picking up on the side because it’s something they really want to do.”
Countries are assigned to teams based on requests from schools and availability.
Dylan Goebel, Jenevieve Corona, and Isaac Baldwin represented the United States. Sells said she likes to have one team represent one of the five permanent members on the U.N. Security Council.
The country of choice for Nick Meyer, Luke Steele, and Seth Crawford was a small, landlocked country in northwest Africa, Burkina Faso.
“I asked them ‘Do you even know where it is?’” Sells said. “They said ‘No, but it sounds cool.’”
The CIA Factbook, a compilation of reports about countries, was the starting point for research that included a wide range of sources.
Marion students approached preparation differently from schools who make Model U.N. part of a regular class, particularly since Sells travels the county for her work with gifted students.
“Mostly their prep was done individually, or with a team member, because the only time I could meet with them was on Tuesdays during seminar,” Sells said.
Students started researching and drafting position papers prior to Christmas, from which they developed ideas for resolutions to introduce during the simulation.
Model U.N. does not require position papers, and many schools do not prepare them, but Sells requires them to help students get the most of out of the experience.
“There are a lot of kids whose schools have debate, and they sit there in class and practice, and they go to competitions,” Sells said. “Our kids get it one time a year, and that’s it.”
Political science students at WSU facilitate the event. Baldwin was unable to attend Friday, and Sells said a WSU political science student filled in for him. The college students are a good addition to the experience high school students get, Sells said.
“The WSU students realized one room was really struggling. In the afternoon they pretended to be a country and modeled for them,” Sells said.
“They did an excellent job of speaking for a resolution, and the kids came out saying they learned so much,” Sells said.
Goebel received honorable mention during the award ceremony for his representation of the U.S.
WSU students observe and score countries during the event based on the level and quality of their participation, and Sells shares those critiques with the students.
The students also learned diplomacy can be exhausting.
“I think we started World War III last Friday,” Sells said. “One of the committees convinced the U.S. to scuttle their Navy.
“I asked Jenevieve why, and she said ‘I was tired. I wanted to go home.”