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Vanderbilt University Model United Nations

FCHS wins best delegate, outstanding delegate

The Courier
Fort Campbell | November 9, 2017

Five Fort Campbell High School students accepted awards at the Vanderbilt University Model United Nations Conference Oct. 20-22 on the school’s campus in Nashville, Tennessee.

VUMUN is the premiere Model United Nations conference in the Southeastern United States. About 550 students from schools across the country participate.

Kariahna Gamblin, senior, was recognized as one of the best delegates at the conference after representing Germany in the World Health Organization Committee. This is the most prestigious award that can be bestowed. Only 21 participants earn it per year. Gavin Sylvia, senior, received the outstanding delegate award while speaking on behalf of Switzerland in the World Health Organization Committee.


Seniors Noemi Cerritos and Elizabeth Ryan both earned verbal commendation for their respective work on the Social Humanitarian and Cultural Committee and the Year 2040 Climate Change Debate. Riley Boyle, junior, earned an honorable mention for participating in the Cold War Joint Crisis Committee.

This is the third year Gamblin has been a part of the FCHS Model United Nations class. As a sophomore she was not sure what MUN was all about. During her junior year she did not think she was good at debating, but now as a senior she is confident in herself and her abilities.

“It feel really nerdy to have won an award from [VUMUN],” she joked. “My first year of MUN, I only talked once or twice every debate. Now I talk once or twice every five seconds.”

The VUMUN offers a range of committees that reflect those currently active in the United Nations. Within these committees, delegates are immersed in interactive simulations to encourage group problem-solving and crisis management skills. MUN students also develop public speaking and research techniques.

The atmosphere at VUMUN was tense, Gamblin said.

“It’s cut throat,” she said. “This one was especially crazy because we had more than 100 delegates in our [general assembly]. They were all intense debaters. From the moment the first speaker opened her mouth I was scared. I was shivering. Everyone there just seemed so smart and we are just this public military school.”

Many schools that participate in the VUMUN are private or magnet schools.

Kenneth Jankowski, FCHS MUN adviser, said the FCHS MUN students dedicate extensive amounts of time and make many sacrifices to be successful at MUN conferences. The team regularly participates in the VUMUN in the fall and at the Indiana University Model United Nations Conference in Indiana in the spring. The team also hosts a public debate in the FCHS commons near the end of the school year.

“These students are giving up an entire weekend for three conferences,” he said. “They are debating, researching, writing working papers and resolutions. They are wearing western business attire for the entire weekend. That in itself shows you how motivated these kids are to be a part of this. They are putting in 12-14 hours per day in committee sessions. That doesn’t take into account the time they are researching outside of committee.”

Sylvia said preparing for the conferences can be stressful and challenging. He said each of the delegates spends several hours researching their topics completely.

This year 39 delegates from FCHS attended VUMUN. The team is comprised of 42 students. The team has never been this large. The team began about seven years ago with seven students under Jankowski’s supervision. When FCHS MUN began, it was an afterschool club. Now it is a class taught during the school day. Two sections of the course are offered because it is so popular.

“It’s been crazy,” Gamblin said. “I’ve never seen the desks as full as they are now. Our debates in class were much smaller before. It’s just been so interesting to see MUN change and transition over the past couple of years. It allows us to see more students in the school and gives us a better chance to debate with more characters and personalities.”

Freshmen are not allowed to join the course. To be enrolled in the course, students are recommended by current MUN students, FCHS faculty and staff.

“There isn’t another class at this school like this,” Cerritos said. “We have certain freedoms to talk about things that most classes and teachers wouldn’t even want to touch on, but that’s because the students are so selectively chosen for this class that we are mature enough to talk about world issues and understand enough about the topics without having biased opinions. We understand how to research a topic to get a full picture.”

Ryan said the class keeps her engaged because the material really matters outside of the school atmosphere.

“In MUN, everything that you are studying really does matter,” she said. “Everything you are learning is something that is happening and is a problem. It’s something that we can grow up to fix, so I actually feel like this is the one class where what I am learning will actually help me rather than just get me to pass a test.”

Boyle said the class is a way for students to open up their mind and be exposed to international news.

“You learn about these world issues and you can’t just look away,” he said. “Most high school students they just go through their day without even looking at the news. But when you do look at the news and you understand what is happening, you become intrigued and then you become attached. You become invested in the topics and become passionate.”

Many military dependent high schools students have been stationed overseas with their Families. Boyle and his Family were stationed at United States Army Garrison Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany when he was younger. While there, part of the installation was donated to help Syrian refugees who were seeking shelter when the Syrian immigration began.

“It really gives you a backing, in a sense,” Boyle said. “To me, it’s not just research anymore. I have a firsthand account of what is happening. That’s really where my passion comes from. Now I just have to do the research to back myself up.”

Each of the award-winning students agreed that joining the MUN class has changed their outlook on life. Sylvia said it drastically changed his plans for the future.

“I went from wanting to be an elementary school teacher to wanting to work for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund and save starving children and refugees in the Middle East. I never knew that I could be so passionate about something that didn’t directly affect me.”

Gamblin said she is considering a political career, but has not figured everything out yet. She said she plans to continue participating in MUN at the collegiate level. Ryan plans to pursue a veterinarian career, a goal since she was 6-years-old. Cerritos will study psychology in college, but is considering returning to the academic realm to also study international relations later in life. Boyle said he has always wanted to be a Carnegie museum curator.

“Even if we don’t decide to pursue a career in international relations, MUN has made us more informed and better citizens, not only of the United States, but of the world,” Cerritos said. “We are no longer sheltered. We know what’s going on in the world. With that knowledge we have the ability to make informed decisions.”

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