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Students representing countries from around the world hold up their placards during a vote Tuesday at the Model United Nations conference at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Students representing countries from around the world hold up their placards during a vote Tuesday at the Model United Nations conference at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Budding diplomats tackled such topics as human trafficking, North Korea’s nukes and debt relief for poor countries during a mock United Nations summit on Tuesday.

About 250 high school students from Defense Department schools across Europe, Norway, Russia, Germany and Ukraine gathered for a two-day Model United Nations meeting.

The conference is similar to a much larger gathering of high school, would-be diplomats at The Hague, where roughly 3,800 students from around the world meet annually.

Phillipp Schmoll, a history teacher at Ramstein American High School, said the reason teachers and students put together a smaller conference is to allow students a greater chance to debate world issues. Participants are all members of their local schools’ U.N. clubs and some of them will participate in the larger meeting at The Hague.

“Some of the commissions at The Hague are so huge, there are students there from 9-to-5 and nobody gets a chance to participate,” Schmoll said. “So we decided to do our own. It’s smaller. It gives more students a chance to debate.”

Each student represented a country as a delegate during the meeting and presented resolutions to some of the biggest problems facing the international community. In a twist, the teens could not represent their home country.

That means admittedly shy students such as Michael Kane, a junior from Ramstein American High School who gets nervous speaking in front of a crowd, had to combat his own oratory demons and represent Norway.

“I’m kind of quiet,” he said. “So having to go up and speak and debate helps me to be an orator, because it’s a good skill to have to be able to go up and speak in front of large groups of people and actually keep your composure.”

While timid orators gained courage, other students made friends. The conference served as an opportunity for participants to meet students from other countries.

Teens from Russia, Norway and Ukraine stayed with American sponsors during the two-day conference. For some, it was the first chance to experience how an American family lives.

Olen Mykhalchenko, a 16-year-old student from Kiev, Ukraine, said she was surprised at how much her host family ate together. At her home in the former Soviet state, she said she rarely got the chance to eat dinner with her parents.

“It’s unusual for the whole family to sit around the whole table,” she said.

Mykhalchenko earlier this year joined thousands of protesters who thought a Russian-backed candidate robbed the popular Viktor Yushchenko of the presidency. Yushchenko later became president. During the conference, she represented Mexico.

“This is like diplomacy,” she said. “We’re searching for a consensus and solving problems with the cooperation of countries. … This is very impressive.”


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