“I spent my spring break at nerd town,” says sophomore Katharine Childs, “waking up at the same time as I would for school.”
From March 1st to March 3rd, Katharine and three other Lovett sophomores spent their free time at a hotel in Marietta doing something most would not consider all that cool: Model United Nations. The conference brings together students from across Georgia, representing nations across the globe, to debate world issues.
What inspires these students to attend the conference is a combination of interest in international politics...and college applications.
“I was curious to see what it was because I had never done anything like it before,” says Ginger Johnson, representing the Philippines; she adds, “I also want it for college. And my mom also told me to do it. But I was interested, too.”
And yet, as both Katharine and Ginger found out, Model UN is a lot more fun than it sounds.
I attended my first conference as a Junior Model UN ambassador in eighth grade, where I proudly represented the country of Estonia (which is actually pretty fascinating even though it sounds like an imaginary kingdom from the Princess Diaries). Before I signed up, I hardly even knew anything about the actual United Nations, let alone the teenage version of it. But as I learned more about the components of it, I got really excited about the process.
It all starts with picking one of the more than two-hundred world nations to represent as that country’s ambassador. Along with one or two other ambassadors from your school, you research your country and write up a resolution, which is a half-page document similar to a bill for Congress in which you propose a change or solution to an issue. Then, at the conference, you present this resolution to ambassadors from other schools with the hopes of getting it passed.
I was absolutely thrilled when my resolution got passed that first year, and I carried my passion for Model UN into high school...until I learned that Lovett did not have a high school chapter of Model UN. I decided that I needed to change that.
“I love it when school events are student-driven,” says Mrs. Turner, the Director of Civic and Global Engagement at Lovett. Last fall, I approached her to see if she could sponsor a new Model UN club, and she has been supporting this initiative ever since. She has helped me immensely with the registration side of things while allowing me to take charge when it comes to recruiting and leading the team. Our months of preparation led up to the three-day conference at the beginning of March.
“I’m actually participating more than I thought I would,” Katharine reflects on the last day of the conference. “I’m not as lost and confused and I thought I would be. I got the hang of it.”
Katharine and her partner, James Kemp, represented Hungary. Their resolution called for a travel ban on foreigners entering the European Union in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Of the seventy-three resolutions that were presented at the conference, theirs was among the eighteen that were officially passed by assembly.
It seems that Lovett students have a knack for developing resolutions, as the one Ginger and I wrote was also among the successful ones. On behalf of the Philippines, whose beaches are covered in litter, we called for a reduction of the usage of single-use plastic bags. After much debate with the other world nations, we managed to get enough favorable votes to be passed by the assembly.
Beyond the fact that we were successful in passing our resolutions, we learned a lot along the way about the world, as well as our own state.
As Mr. Jewell, our other chaperone, puts it, “I think we often overuse the phrase ‘the Buckhead Bubble.’ Even though we’re only three miles from Lovett [during the conference], there are students here from every part of this state, which is a type of diversity we don’t always see at Lovett.”
Mrs. Turner also sees the value of having this shared experience. “I feel that Model UN embodies a lot of what we want our students to be learning,” she says, “working collaboratively with students from other schools, thinking about the world outside themselves, negotiating...these are great skills.”
The students seem to recognize the value of this conference as well. “There’s a lot of different opinions,” says Katharine, “and some things that I would think are more clear-cut clearly aren’t.”
That’s what this whole experience is really about: realizing that there are other opinions and perspectives surrounding concepts that we tend to only approach from one side. Model UN is about presenting your own ideas but also listening to those of others.
So maybe the thought of spending your break from school in an educational way does not appeal to everyone. Maybe Model UN really is an assembly of state-wide nerds. But there is certainly value in gaining new, global perspectives and representing populations that aren’t always on the minds of us Lovett students.
As Ginger admits, “I think it’s pretty cool. Not gonna lie.”