Students at Gulf Coast High School who recently spent some time acting like presidents, prime ministers and ambassadors proved they know a thing or two about the debates and politics that occur everyday at the United Nations.
The students, part of the school’s Model U.N. team, ranked as one of the top 10 teams in the nation, after attending and debating critical world issues at the Eleventh Annual Model U.N. Conference and Exposition, hosted by Columbia University last month.
“We are very proud of them,” said Ken Fairbanks, principal at Gulfcoast High School, noting the Sharks Model U.N. team was also honored at a recent Collier County School Board meeting for their academic efforts and for their world policy knowledge in preparing for and debating international topics in New York City.
Ashley Inman, a senior and president of the Model U.N. Team, is extremely pleased with her team’s top 10 ranking. With more than 700 students from 60 schools, competing in a series of debates, (modeled after the United Nations debates) of world topics, Gulf Coast’s Model U.N. students edged out many competing teams with their presentations.
“I have participated in the Model U.N for many years, and we’re getting better every year,” explained Inman on a break between classes. “They take our topics from the United Nations, and it is very pertinent to what’s going on in the world today. Our committees are broken up into the same subsidiary bodies of the United Nations.”
Columbia University traditionally hosts the conference every January, with intentions centering on encouraging high school students to conduct dynamic debates taken directly from topics based on United Nations meetings.
Throughout the conference, high school students are “transformed to become ambassadors, kings, presidents and even the occasional wizard or superhero, as delegates are thrown into the midst of wars, famines or other portals of time, to discuss issues,” according to staff at Columbia University.
Co-advisors to the Model U.N team, teachers Sue Soulard and Marsha Layne, foresee the team ranking even higher in the next two competitions, which will take place in Florida in the upcoming months at Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Florida.
During the heated academic competition, advisors are not allowed to give hints in the debates, but offer guidance to students through meetings conducted every week on campus to prepare for the topics that may be presented at Model U.N. conferences.
“We have two of the best delegates in the country here, and students need to have a complete knowledge of social studies and world affairs to prepare for the debates. Any student who wants to give it a shot, can join the Model U.N. here,” said Layne.
Following the recent competition, students and teachers chose to visit the World Trade Center memorial, partake in some Broadway theater shows, and see historical landmarks throughout New York City.
“The students each pay for their travel expenses, and we are looking for corporate sponsors who want to help offset the costs of travel, too,” explained Layne.
“Initially, everybody’s hands are shaking when they went to debate, but through it all, it was a great experience,” said Wyatt Navarro, another Model U.N. student leader who celebrated his win with fellow Model U.N. Team members.
Inman agreed with Navarro. “It is a really cool to see how our team has grown in just two short years here, and I hope to do this again in the college circuit,” she explained, as she has her sights set on attending Georgetown University in the fall.