Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Experience at the National Student Leadership Conference: Elena

By: Elena Kervitsky, Program Assistant - Youth Team

The National Student Leadership program is a multi-day leadership conference that develops student’s leadership skills both on a general level and in the context of a certain career or academic field. 

When I received the invitation pamphlet in the mail I was immediately drawn to the conference that focused on International Diplomacy, since I knew that it is something I am passionate about and want to study in college. I saw this as an opportunity to learn first hand what is involved in diplomacy, to speak to experts in this field, visit various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and to research and write resolutions on one particular international issue in a mock Security Council Session.

When registering I was asked to rank five topics based on my interest - students are not guaranteed their first committee of choice but I was fortunate enough to be one of the few who were. For the duration of the eleven-day conference twelve other high school students and I researched, debated, and formulated resolutions to hopefully address Human Trafficking within the Security Council.

Model UN Security Council: Mission Impossible

Prior to this program I had only participated in Model United Nations (UN) once before at a Global Classrooms DC conference five years earlier. The mock Security Council sessions were very different from that experience. The Security Council requires signature from all of the permanent Security Council members to pass a resolution, and creating a resolution that China, Russia, and the United States could all agree on felt like mission impossible.

Having struggled to create a resolution that pleased all of these opposing parties, I now have a more thorough understanding of how the security council works and its organizational shortcomings. However, having learned more about the structure of the UN and the philosophy of the laws that govern each branch, I cannot think of a better way to organize it. Even if I could, there is no guarantee that in actuality it would work the way it was designed to.

World Simulation: Teenagers as World Leaders

Aside from the Security Council sessions, we also participated in World Simulation sessions where the group of sixty-five students was divided up into ten groups to govern ten different nations.  Each country came with a distinct history, social issues, funding, physical qualities and limitations; the rest was up to us to create.

It was my immediate inclination to create an independent, peaceful country that was on good terms with all other nations and had a strong focus on social issues and maintaining a stable economy.

Unfortunately, that was far more difficult than I had anticipated. Only one or two other individuals in my country agreed with those values, and many other nations decided to take advantage of our country’s internal indecision to raid, pillage, and destroy it. Every attempt at making alliances was sabotaged; trade agreements all had a silver lining of corruption; and it was impossible to trust anyone, even the people in your own government.

In the sea or lies and deceit it was impossible to really know a nation’s agenda or where their allegiances lay, but with world affairs changing rapidly it was detrimental for your country to wait until that was made clear before making decisions.

Note: Part of the chaos should be attributed to the fact that this was a world ruled by teenagers who thought of it more as a game than a simulation.

This exercise was eye opening for me because before the world simulation I didn’t understand to the true extent of integration in our world and how something that may seem distant can have a profound effect on local affairs. While this was only a simulation, the connection between this world simulation and our real world affairs was obvious. It was frightening and motivating for me at the same time.

Now, having participated in this program and spent eleven days learning about global affairs I feel more compelled than ever to follow my passion for international affairs and diplomacy and to pursue a career in global politics.  As long as global education is available and students are encouraged to learn about these issues, I believe that progress and positive change is possible.

“We may be the students of today, but we’re also the adults and leaders of tomorrow. These issues are going to ours and we need to know how to address them.” – A segment of my interview as a seventh grade delegate at GCDC’s 2011 spring conference. 

Author's Bio: Elena is a home-schooled high school senior who has been working in the Global Classrooms program for four years writing curriculum and the monthly newsletter for students and teachers. This fall she is applying to colleges to study international relations and foreign policy in hopes of working for the United Nations in the future to solve global issues like Human Trafficking and Food Insecurity.