2017 MODEL NATO CHALLENGE WINNERS

By Sydney Doyon, Cox High School NORFOLK, Va. – On Friday, March 31 students from all around Hampton Roads met at Virginia Wesleyan to compete in the 11th annual Model NATO Challenge hosted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and Virginian Wesleyan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization holds the Model NATO... View Article

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By Sydney Doyon, Cox High School

NORFOLK, Va. – On Friday, March 31 students from all around Hampton Roads met at Virginia Wesleyan to compete in the 11th annual Model NATO Challenge hosted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and Virginian Wesleyan.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization holds the Model NATO Challenge every year in order to get high school students involved in diplomacy. By giving these students real world experiences NATO hopes to open them up to real world issues. During the challenge each of the 28 students represents one of the 28 NATO member Nations.

The journey for these 28 student diplomats began in December 2016 when they went through the application process. In order to apply, students had to complete an extensive application including a written 750 word essay. Around Mid-January, 28 applicants were notified of their acceptance into the Model NATO Challenge.

The student diplomats met their mentors on Thursday, February 9th, 2017, at the program orientation held at the Clay and Jay Barr Education Center in Norfolk, Virginia. During this orientation students were informed of their jobs as diplomats and what was expected of them throughout the challenge. On Friday, February 24th, Student diplomats met at NATO ACT for a Tour around the Headquarters with their mentors. They also heard from Political Advisor to Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to Staff and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Dr. Robert Murphy. He spoke to the diplomats about the importance of the role they were taking on.

On Wednesday, March 8th, the student diplomats met at Virginia Wesleyan for a student night with their mentors. The diplomats used this night to gain a deeper knowledge of the country they were representing.

The Model NATO challenge started at 4:00pm and was scheduled to last for five hours with a dinner break scheduled half way through. Due to a severe thunderstorm all attendees of the challenge were evacuated shortly before the dinner break. Unfortunately, due to the evacuation, the second session of the challenge was cut short by one hour to ensure that everyone could get home safely.

The challenge began with opening remarks from the chairman of the Norfolk NATO Festival, Mr. Jeff Maisey, who addressed the student diplomats in a way to encourage and congratulate them for everything they have accomplished so far.

The issue presented to the student diplomats was the Syrian civil war crisis. Student diplomats were given background information to support the topic and then were free to discuss in an open diplomatic forum. The first topic Madame Secretary presented was whether or not the Syrian civil war was an issue that NATO should take action on. Almost all student diplomats agreed that this was a NATO issue and they should take action.

During a coffee break, the student diplomats were given the chance to speak amongst one other in order to form Alliances. According to student diplomats, this time was very useful in furthering their thoughts and opinions throughout the discussions.

“I think the discussion is going very well, there is very little disagreement, and we’ve started to come together to form solutions and come to a consensus,” said the student diplomat of Iceland.

After agreeing to take action, the process of how to take action was discussed. During the first vote of the night all countries’ student diplomats agreed to speak with Russia about forming safe zones for Syrian refugees, and increase intelligence at turkey’s request.

Preceding this vote, came hesitation from certain student diplomats. The idea of working with Russia intimidated some countries. Also, certain student diplomats no longer agreed the talks with Russia should be about safe zones, but rather about fighting ISIS. After a lengthy discussion, Madame Secretary outlined the last vote. All countries voted yes to talking with Russia about safe zones and fighting ISIS, but when asked about creating a cyber offensive against ISIS some diplomats voted no, which discontinued that idea.

At the conclusion of the night Student diplomats agreed the challenge was an enriching experience for all 28 of them but especially for the top three finalist, once announced, who will be granted an academic scholarship to the college of their choice.

The participants will meet one last time the weekend of April 28th, 2017, to participate in the Norfolk NATO Festival Weekend. During this festival student diplomats will be recognized for their hard work and dedication to this program.

 

2017 MODEL NATO CHALLENGE WINNERS

Placement   Student Diplomat      High School                   Country Represented       Scholarship

1st                    Caroline Fox        Princess Anne HS                  Romania                      $2,500

2nd                Reagan Bracknell    Princess Anne HS                 Norway                         $1,500

3rd                  Samuel Lisner        Ocean Lakes HS                    Lithuania                      $1,000

 

Press Corp Winner

Sydney Doyon, Cox High School