Congratulations to the 13 IDEA scholars who comprised the first-ever Model United Nations team to represent IDEA at the Washington Area Model United Nations Conference. Representing several UN committees and member countries, team members interacted with the other 1,300 Model UN delegates from schools from all over the country.
Model UN is an international program that brings middle school, high school, and college students together to strengthen their skills in critical thinking, diplomacy, negotiation, public speaking, writing, and research by simulating a real United Nations conference.
Scholars at IDEA began preparing for the summit in January by learning parliamentary procedure, researching the countries and committees they represented, and writing position papers explaining how they were advocating for critical issues related to their committees and countries.
Most IDEA scholars were named delegates from South Sudan, a country that has only existed independently since 2013. As delegates, scholars had to build partnerships and advance their positions while protecting their resources and the interests of their countries.
Representing South Sudan, Delonte Cunningham and Dianshe Robinson were assigned to the Disarmament and International Security Committee. Faith Brooks and DeNay Barnes represented the Special Political and Decolonization Committee. Malaysia Johnson and Kajah Watkins worked on the Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Issues Committee. Francisco San Roman and Trejure Mclean were assigned to the UN Office of Legal Affairs. Representing Australia, J’Lin Small and Amillian Richardson (representing South Sudan) worked with the United Nations Development Programme. Representing Albania, Dezeray Walters worked with the Commission on the Status of Women.
The George Washington University’s International Affairs Society organized the conference, which was held at the Grand Hyatt Washington March 21-24. IDEA English teacher Alexandrea Rich sponsored IDEA’s team and raised money for the scholars’ expenses during the conference. IDEA Board of Trustees member Lakeisha Highsmith generously sponsored the scholars’ accommodations.
“Model UN is a way to teach our scholars how to talk about policy and politics,” explained Ms. Rich. “They focused on our larger culture and learned about contemporary world issues and African American topics. We also talked about networking and etiquette. They had to wear professional attire and learn how delegates act and speak at the United Nations.”
“It was different being in a situation where you were really the minority,” said Malaysia Johnson about her experience at Model UN. “We had to work harder to make sure our views were heard and not overshadowed.” Malaysia explained that her task as a member of the Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Issues Committee was to reduce media censorship in South Sudan. “Before the conference, we researched the country and the issues, and when we actually got there, we had to make alliances. It was difficult to create alliances because we were in the minority. We really had to work to make sure everything we said was taken into consideration. After we formed a bloc with several countries, we created a resolution and presented it to the committee. Our resolution was that media censorship should be extremely limited, and only used when absolutely necessary, like when there was a threat to national security.”
Ms. Rich plans to keep working with the team with the goal of participating in a Model UN conference in New York City next year. Congratulations to our scholars on developing and sharpening new skills in international diplomacy!