Youngsters head to UN Conference

Talented students from Cayman Prep and High School will travel to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York to take part in a conference.
The youngsters will be the first group from Cayman ever to take part in the event, which simulates a real United Nations conference.  

 

Until recently most of the students at Cayman Prep and High School admit they had never heard of Kyrgyzstan. 

Now a group of talented youngsters are preparing to talk about the economic and social needs of the former Russian republic at the United Nations headquarters in New York. 

A 16-strong delegation from the school will become the first Caymanian students to take part in the model UN conference – a forum for schoolchildren from across the globe that simulates the experience of a real UN conference. 

The youngsters, aged between 11 and 14, will present position papers on issues from world health and sustainable tourism to child protection and women’s rights. 

The catch is that they won’t be representing their own views, or even the views of the Cayman Islands.  

Each school is assigned two countries for its pupils to represent so the make-up of the conference accurately reflects the real United Nations. 

The Caymanian pupils will be asked to speak up for El Salvador and Kyrgyzstan at the three-day-conference, organised by the Global Classrooms initiative and hosted at the United Nations headquarters and the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan in April. Grand Cayman based law-firm Mourant Ozannes is helping to fund the trip and has been helping prep the students for the event. 

Working in pairs the pupils will make presentations to different committees, made up of children from schools around the US and overseas, and try and win support from the other delegates for their positions. 

Their teacher Mark Freeman said the event would challenge them to move outside of their comfort zone and to think about world issues in a different way. 

He said they would also learn how the UN really worked as they wheeled and dealed to try and win support for their positions from other countries. 

The school held a series of auditions in September to choose which students would go to the event. After listening to the pupils make short presentations on world poverty Mr Freeman and Laura Knox, the teachers in charge of the project, whittled it down to 16 students and two reserves. 

They have been meeting every week since October to practice debating and public speaking and to learn about how the UN works.  

In the last two weeks, since being assigned their countries, they have been cramming on Kyrgyzstan and El Salvador.  

El Salvador was familiar to most of the youngsters, but most admit they had to look up Kyrgyzstan on Wikipedia. 

Daniel Reid, 14, said: “It was part of Soviet Russia so it’s a fairly new country. There is a large farming area, they also produce gold and they have a large walnut forest.” 

Caitlin Westerborg, 14,said she would be asking the model UN to help tackle the issue of ‘bridal kidnappings’. The bizarre and illegal practice of abducting a wife is still a cultural norm in the remote rural parts of the country and enforcement is lax. 

The students say the experience of researching for the conference has already given them a new perspective on world affairs. 

Zoe van den Bol, 14, added: “As well as research we have done a lot of practice in public speaking and debating which are skills that will help us throughout life.” 

Cari Nelsen, 13, said the students were nervous about making presentations in front of such a large group. But she said they were excited about the challenge. 

Eddie Weber, 12, added: “Even though we are all nervous about going it is going to be a great experience.” 

Some of the students say the experience is already inspiring them to think about working for the United Nations for real when they are older. 

Samantha Smellie, 14, said: “The point of the UN is to care for the world and ensure there is human rights. I believe that’s a very special idea and I’d be very interested in going to help around the world.” 

Morven McMillan, a partner at Mourant Ozannes, added: “This is an ideal opportunity for Mourant Ozannes to be involved with a scheme which is aimed at broadening the horizons and developing the research, debating and analytical skills of some of the most gifted students at Cayman Prep. I am delighted that we are able to support a programme that aims to challenge, engage and develop these students and assist in preparing them for their future careers.” 

The students involved in the event are: Alex Strickland, Zoe van den Bol, Caitlin Westerborg, Daniel Reid, Emilie Edgington, Beth Johnson, Eddie Weber, James Priaulx, Samantha Smellie, Aideen Teeling, Cari Nelson, Erin Bernard, Ameila Pimentel, Josh Martin, Jack Lewis, Matthew Rowell, Eden Bowyer and Ben Black. 

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Off to the United Nations: Students from the Cayman Prep and High School are pictures with Mourant Ozannes partner Hector Robinson and their teachers Mark Freeman and Laura Knox ahead of their trip to New York.

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