Monday, June 18 , 2018, 6:58 am | Fair 50º


Santa Barbara Montessori Students Returning to United Nations

Eighth-graders Caroline Montgomery, Saavan Sagar, Amy Cregan and Sydney Luca-Lion will participate in next week's Model General Assembly

Santa Barbara Montessori School eighth-graders Caroline Montgomery, Saavan Sagar, Amy Cregan and Sydney Luca-Lion are packing their warmest clothes in preparation for their return to the Montessori Model United Nations General Assembly next week in New York City.

“It was incredibly cold last year, so this year I’m taking all of the warm clothes I have,” Sagar said. “I’m just going to build layer upon layer, and hopefully I’ll be warm enough.”

The Montessori Model United Nations General Assembly will host more than 850 students from around the world as they gather to debate and consider issues affecting all member nations.

“This year we’re representing Austria,” Montgomery said. “Saavan and I are speaking about reducing military spending to the First Committee of the General Assembly. Last year we represented France, and now we’re representing a smaller country with just as loud a ‘voice.’ Military spending is a huge issue, with the United States spending nearly 50 percent of the world’s total military expense.”

“Austria is attempting to introduce new limits to military spending, based upon population,” Sagar added. “Austria spends less than 1 percent of their GDP on military costs, so it’s going to be a really interesting discussion as other countries consider what effect this approach will have for them.”

With meetings held within the United Nations building, the Santa Barbara students are excited to have the opportunity to return to New York City after their success during last year’s General Assembly.

“Last year, we were new to the whole experience, but once we figured out how the committees functioned and their different roles, we were able to share our research and the positions of the country we were representing,” Montgomery said. “Our discussions were really amazing because there’s students from around the world, all gathered together, discussing all these issues that are real.”

“Last year we met students from the Montessori school in Haiti, who won’t be able to attend this year, but we’ve been in contact with them, and there’s an international Montessori-Haiti relief fund our school raised money for,” Sagar said. “The whole U.N. experience has really increased our awareness of world issues and challenges, and the Haitian earthquake shows us all the importance of international relationships.”

The Santa Barbara Montessori students also will speak about UNESCO’s projects, including the United Nations Literacy Decade, which includes programs dedicated to “education for all,” and especially for women and girls. Luca-Lion and Cregan are focused on the education issue.

“Education isn’t an ornament of the privileged,” Luca-Lion said. “Education is a right for all people. One of our topics is the goal of achieving universal access to information and knowledge in rural areas.”

Cregan added, “One of the details we discovered in our research is that 10 percent of Austria’s population lives in isolated rural areas, in mountainous valleys that are cut off from the rest of the country, cut off from ‘civilization,’ for months and months. Access to information is key, and the Austrians’ solutions then relate to those in other countries, and that will be our task during committee discussions.”

The Montessori Model U.N. Conference will meet Monday with keynote speaker David Kahn, addressing the delegates representing all of the U.N. member countries.

“These students, from around the world, are fortunate to be able to participate in a genuine exercise by applying their research in an international environment,” said Kahn, executive director of the North American Montessori Teachers Association. “Their understanding of global issues is deepened by the breadth and depth of their experience while in the U.N.”

After Monday’s conference meeting, the member countries’ representatives attend committee meetings throughout the week before gathering Thursday for a final recap with the Model U.N. presidents.

“Last year, it snowed while we were there,” Luca-Lion said, “and the forecast includes the possibility of snow for this trip, too.”

“We’re all bringing the warmest clothes we have,” Cregan said, “because as much as we enjoyed learning everything, and meeting people and making friends from around the world, we’re staying in Brooklyn this year, and we’ll be able to walk to the Chip Shop for dinner — we love that place!”

— Jim Fitzpatrick is the head of school for Santa Barbara Montessori School.

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