CHARLESTON — A group of students from Cardinal Newman School in Columbia received a first-hand lesson on what it means to be part of the global community when they attended the Model U.N. Conference in New York.
Jacquie Kasprowski, principal, said 10 juniors and seniors were chosen to participate as representatives from Kenya in East Africa at the event held March 19-22.
“It was thrilling for them,” Kasprowski said in a phone interview with The Miscellany.
It also was a daunting task.
“They were very excited. This was the first year of United Nations at Cardinal Newman, so it was a year of intense learning,” said Laura Chambers. She teaches world geography and history and served as the U.N. moderator.
At the conference, students act as ambassadors from U.N. member states and debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. They make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the rules of procedure. Their goal is to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world, according to the Web site, www.unausa.org.
And they only have four days to do it.
“It was really interesting to actually see the way that the U.N. works and how difficult it is to agree on a resolution,” Joanna Watson, a senior on the trip, wrote in an e-mail to The Miscellany.
Some of the topics they discussed included disarmament, weapons in space, world health issues and rehabilitation for child soldiers in war-torn countries, Chambers said.
“I feel like after the trip I am more aware of what goes on around the world and how much cooperation [is] needed to fix global problems,” Watson wrote.
Courtney Poston, a junior, said the experience exceeded all her expectations. She explained in an e-mail that the group was overwhelmed at first, but said everyone was friendly and helpful and that the students adapted quickly to their roles.
“It was so interesting to watch all the delegations react with one another and hear everyone’s opinions,” Poston wrote.
It wasn’t all work for the students. Chambers said they visited a number of New York’s most famous spots.
They went to Ellis Island and looked over Manhattan from the top of the Statue of Liberty, and attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
As Chambers said, a trip to the Big Apple would not be complete without seeing a Broadway play, and the group was lucky enough to score tickets to “Phantom of the Opera.”
On a more somber note, the students walked around ground zero of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and paid their respects at the monument dedicated to the victims.
Each person brought home their own favorite memory.
For Chambers, it was attending the opening and closing sessions at the U.N. General Assembly hall and voting on resolutions.
Watson wrote that the academic aspect of the trip was fascinating, but even more incredible for her was meeting people from around the country and the world.
Poston was intrigued by it all.
“The best part … was that we all were introduced to a new way of learning, one that was very different from the one we experience everyday in the classroom,” she wrote. “We learned about how countries deal with these types of problems by experiencing just what they go through ourselves.”
To vote as representatives of Kenya, the students had to understand the republic, where 33 percent of the population is Catholic.
Kasprowski said the students conducted an in-depth study of the country and wrote a position paper on the issues discussed at the United Nations.
Located along the coast of the Indian Ocean, Kenya is surrounded by poverty-stricken, war-torn countries including Somalia and Ethiopia.
Kenya has faced a number of daunting crises in its recent history which impact its concerns at the United Nations. Flooding, epidemics of malaria and cholera, and ethnic fighting plagued the country in 1997-98.
The U.S. embassy in Nairobi was bombed by terrorists in 1998.
Drought ravaged the country in 2006, and ethnic violence erupted again in 2007 following charges of corruption in the presidential election.