By Nicole Montero
Nearly 400 middle and high school students from more than 20 schools competed at an annual conference last week, hosted by FIU’s Model United Nations team – an international relations program that provides an interactive environment for students in political and international affairs.
“This was the most successful FIU High School Model United Nations conference in more than 20 years,” said John Stack, dean of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs. “Hundreds of students came from all over the state to compete here at FIU. They were bright, motivated, and determined to succeed in their respective committees.”
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ‘75, ’86, the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress and an FIU alumna, attended the conference and addressed students about the importance of the United Nations and her take on recent actions by the Human Rights Council.
“We need young people who really care to step up to the plate and make a difference,” she said. “And right here, in this room, I am very sure is the next generation of those folks.”
The conference also raised more than $650 for Mi Refugio Casa Hogar, an orphanage in the Peruvian Amazon.
Michelle Rodriguez, an FIU junior majoring in psychology and a member of FIU Model UN, spent last summer volunteering at the orphanage.
“I was thrilled that this year the team picked Mi Refugio as the conference charity,” she said. “Words cannot express how much that place means to me. What we send them will go toward installing a water filtration system which will save them a lot of money long-term. It’s going to make a real difference to them.”
Model UN also gave Rodriguez a way to get out of her comfort zone.
“I never thought of myself as risk-averse until I realized how completely foreign it was for me to do something wrong, especially in front of other people,” she said. “The fact is that I was not used to losing, which, in turn, had made me disinclined to risk loss. But success at Model UN has not been something that came naturally to me: it has been a challenge. It keeps me out of my comfort zone. This has been invaluable.”
FIU’s Model UN program is ranked fourth in North America, is the highest ranked team in Florida and the highest ranked team in the country from a public university.
This year, the team prepared 10 model UN committees for students at the conference, including the larger General Assembly committees and smaller, fast-paced crisis committees.
Students assumed positions in bodies like the U.S. Senate, the Disarmament and International Security Committee, the World Health Organization and the UN High Commission for Refugees, where students debated a multitude of domestic and international issues.
Crisis committees included historical, present-day and futuristic events – like Hurricane Katrina, the Iran Revolution of 1977 and NATO 2020, among others, in which the student delegates assumed the roles of diplomats or government ministers collaborating and competing to solve problems.
The delegation awards for the conference included: Belen Jesuit Preparatory Academy for Best Large Delegation; Doral Preparatory Academy for Outstanding Large Delegation; Hialeah Miami Lakes Senior High for Best Small Delegation; and John A. Ferguson Senior High for Outstanding Small Delegation.
Preparation for this conference began after last year’s FIU Model UN conference concluded. Just weeks after adjournment, the team elected a secretariat and began discussing committee topics.
Once topics and dates were finalized, the team began making preparations and started reaching out to high schools from all over the country.
This was the largest session to date.
“The conference was a success,” said Ethan Roberts, program coordinator of FIU Model UN. “I think it’s important to be aware of what the rest of the world is thinking and what’s going on with the rest of the world.[Model UN] is an opportunity to simulate solving big problems and working in a group toward a common goal. It’s an opportunity to sharpen a skill-set that most people will admit is very valuable but is seldom practiced in schools. Congratulations to all of the students who participated and to all the delegation winners.”
To view a video of the event, click here.