SAN MARCOS — The 18 well-dressed middle-school students sat in front of a small crowd in the multi-purpose room of San Marcos Middle School on Wednesday evening.
Two-by-two, the students stood up to a microphone and stated their name, the country they represent and the social issue they hoped to address.
“It’s been more than two decades since we’ve discovered AIDS, and we still haven’t found a vaccine, and that is something that must change,” said Bruin Acuna, who will be representing the nation of Nicaragua in New York in a week and a half. “We are working towards the global eradication of AIDS.”
Brian isn’t really from Nicaragua. He and his classmates will be representing countries at the Global Classrooms International Middle School Model United Nations Conference, held March 26 through March 28 in New York City.
The middle school Model UN conference simulates a UN Summit, in which the “delegates” — students from hundreds of schools across the globe — work together to draft resolutions to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues — global pandemics, energy poverty, gender equity and international peace and security.
“I think the Model UN program is so great because it teaches students how to negotiate, collaborate and speak in front of a throng of students from 14 nations and 13 states,” said Lawrence Osen, a U.S. history and geography teacher at San Marcos Middle School who is the model UN adviser. “They learn to interact, exchange ideas and seek to find solutions to major global challenges. It makes them think global.”
The group has prepared since the fall for the big conference, participating in two local model UN summits, one at UC San Diego and the other at Mission Viejo High School.
During these summits, the student delegates give speeches to the delegation, and then are broken into their committees — the General Assembly, World Health Organization, UN Women and the UN Development Program are among the assignments — where they attempt to get their ideas included into the group’s resolution, which is then presented to the entire assembly for approval.
“You want your ideas incorporated into the resolution, or even better, you want to co-sponsor or author the resolution,” Osen said.
They also did significant fundraising over the same time period to help pay for the trip, as several corporations and local businesses, including Lusardi Construction, Kahoot, Stone Brewing Co., Teamwork Athletic Apparel and the San Marcos Community Foundation opened their coffers to the students to make the trip possible.
“We’ve had tremendous support for the students throughout the community,” Osen said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without their support.”
Wednesday gave the student delegates an opportunity to present their respective platforms to the audience of parents and local dignitaries, including San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond and Councilman Chris Orlando, and Poway Superintendent John Collins.
Acuna and his partner, Gabriel Rodriguez, are representing Nicaragua on the World Health Organization committee, and are drawing up a plan to eradicate AIDS and raise awareness to the threat of Hepatitis A, tuberculosis and malaria to the country, as well as lead an effort to adopt strong pro-childhood vaccination campaign in the country.
“We in Nicaragua believe that every child vaccinated is another life saved,” Acuna said.
Representing Senegal on the same committee, Matthew Ramon and Grant Reynolds proposed a four-pronged plan to fight AIDS in the African nation- education youth and teens on sex education, increasing the accessibility to healthcare, decreasing the cost of healthcare and increasing access for citizens to non-governmental organizations that serve similar purposes.
Ryan Giometti and Logan Smith will represent Senegal on another committee dealing with sustainable energy. Their proposal: creating a giant solar farm in the Sahara desert and a giant wind farm in the Himalayas to provide West Africa and Southeast Asia, respectively, with affordable energy.
Think global, indeed.