Hopeful Despite Challenging Times: Students gather at the U.S. Department of State and PAHO for Annual Global Classrooms DC Model UN Conference

On May 2, 2017 UNA-NCA had the pleasure of welcoming nearly 700 students, educators, parents, volunteers, and guests to the Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) Annual Spring Model United Nations (UN) Conference, hosted at the U.S. Department of State and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). 

Students from 5th to 12th grade came from nearly 40 schools and groups mainly in the Washington DC metro area, but also as far as Texas. Across eight total middle and high school committees, delegates debated solutions to addressing rising sea levels, access to primary education, human rights of refugees, technology for sustainable cities, and the situation in Somalia. The students discussed these topics as representatives of countries from every corner of the globe through the UN Environment Programme, the African Union, the UN Human Rights Council, a Special Summit of the UN General Assembly, and the UN Security Council.

The conference was opened by Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (retired), UNA-NCA President. He discussed the important role the UN plays in global corporation, citing the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and aviation safety standards, and the importance for the United States to remain actively involved in the UN.  Megan Penn, Director of Global Education for UNA-NCA, shared with the audience her experience in Model UN and shared some words of advice and encouragement for the delegates. Prior to hearing from the Keynote Speaker, the audience heard a wonderful speech from Luis F. Mendez, a State Department Foreign Service Officer who has worked with Global Classrooms this past year as part of his Una Cox Chapman Foundation Fellowship. He stressed how he is hopeful for the future after having the privilege to work with a number of schools in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.

The Keynote Speaker for 13th Annual GCDC Model UN Conference at the U.S. Department of State and PAHO was Nicol Perez, US Youth Observer to the UN. Born in Bolivia, Ms. Perez shared her story of immigrating to the US, how she started in Model UN as an initially shy and quiet delegate, and later founding her own NGO empowering Latin American women to establish their home businesses. We had the pleasure of the presence of Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who delivered an inspiring speech on integrity and encouraging the students to pursue their passion in international relations. Lastly, the GCDC Student Secretary-General, Steve Mirabello, opened the conference.


“The fact that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to us showed how important this conference is” – Student from Potomac Falls High School

GCDC_Open_HouseStudents went straight for their committee rooms in both the U.S. Department of State and PAHO, to begin their sessions. Educators and guests had the opportunity to see the committees in action, as well as attend the GCDC Open House. UNA-NCA Executive Director Paula Boland led the Open House, highlighting this year’s conference sponsors and partners. We give many thanks to UNFCU, Konnected, Culturfied Foundation, O’Melveny and Myers LLP, AIRSCHOTT, NEA, Carlos M. Molina, Una Chapman Cox Foundation, Starbucks at 21st and P St., Trader Joe’s at 25th St. NW, and all those who donated through the GCDC Support a Delegate program. 

Untitled_design After lunch, the students went straight back to work, and wrote draft resolutions that outlined their ideas to solve their committees’ respective challenges. Some of the students shared with GCDC Staff the highlights of the day thus far, and what they learned through preparing for the conference. Meanwhile, the GCDC team ran the Professional Development Workshop, getting educators on their feet through global education activities and getting vital feedback from educators on the year-long programming and curriculum as well as the conference.

“It’s shocking that some of these issues are not covered by the media so the model UN definitely broadened my worldview.” – Student from Bishop Ireton High School

“The unmoderated causes have been my favorite part of the experience so far because it is easier to form ideas. It is a more casual way of getting to know each other and our viewpoints.” – Student from Al-Rahmah School

_RLS6156To round out the day, closing ceremonies featured Acquania G. Escarne, Recruitment and Outreach Officer at the U.S. Department of State, who drew attention to the State Department programs available to high school students. UNA-NCA Director of Global Education, Megan Penn, and Mr. Mirabello, the Student Secretary-General, gave out the committee and position paper awards to recognize outstanding work done by participating students.

The GCDC Model UN Conference was a great success in being a place for the leaders of tomorrow – and today – to participate in and discuss some of the world’s most pressing international issues while working with students from other communities and backgrounds.

“Working with others to figure out resolutions has been my favorite part of the conference.” – Homeschooled Student

Thank you to all our speakers and a very special thank you for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs and the Pan American Health Organization for continued support and hosting the event throughout the years. UNA-NCA also thanks the UN Federal Credit Union, and other GCDC Spring Model UN Conference sponsors. Thank you to Elliott Lyles for his continued support photographing UNA-NCA events. Finally, a warm thank you to UNA-NCA and GCDC Staff, Program Assistants, and volunteers – this conference could not run without your support.

For full coverage of the Opening Ceremonies, watch the video below or on YouTube here:

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