Middle schools throughout Shelby County recently participated in the JUNA (Junior United Nation Assembly) competition, held at Birmingham Southern College on January 29-30.
According to their website, JUNA of Alabama is a student-run United Nations Assembly for students in grades 6-8. For the past 22 years, JUNA has increased awareness of worldwide issues, demonstrated how the United Nations works, and emphasized the importance of diplomacy and problem solving among nations, peoples, and cultures.
Each delegation of students represents a different nation of their choosing. Guided by their teacher sponsor, students research their nation, identify a problem or issue in that country or elsewhere in the world, and write a resolution that proposes a solution to the issue. Resolutions are presented first in committees and upon passage are presented in General Assembly. Here delegates discuss, question and vote just as they would do in the real United Nations. Students wear the native dress of their country and make a flag to use for recognition in the General Assembly.
Schools from Shelby County who recently participated were Columbiana Middle School, Oak Mountain Middle School, Chelsea Middle School, Helena Middle School, and Montevallo Middle School.
The students issued a resolution to reduce the amount of air pollution caused by acid rain in Germany. Germany’s display board was one of the ten chosen winners. Germany’s costume was given an honorable mention award for outstanding costume.
CMS team members were Daily Alcaraz-Lopez, Hope Rush, Kelsey Chandler, Maggie Phillips, Emily Dickerson, Aniah Washington, and Kenslee Williams. Their school sponsor is Sheikla Blount.
OMMS students issued a resolution tackling the country’s problem of mercury exposure. The resolution asked the council to help raise awareness of the dangers of mercury exposure and to encourage business and industry to change their practices and eliminate the use of mercury in their products.
OMMS team members were Halle Austin, Michael Bunn, Hamid Choucha, Zachary Fricks, Akhila Maruvada, and Madison Smith. Their school sponsors are Carla Higginbotham and Lauren Cole.
Montevallo students issued a resolution to provide aid to refugees residing in Jordan by granting them work visas and ceasing corruption.
Montevallo Middle School team members were Amanda Buttgereit, Marium Hernandez, Leah Waites, Michaela Martin, Grayson Fulmer, John David Haws, and Evan Zou. The team sponsor is Mona Guraya.
Chelsea Middle School had two JUNA delegations. The 6th grade team represented the country of Ecuador. They wrote a resolution about protecting the Galapagos Islands. The 7th grade team represented Sierra Leone and wrote a resolution about the effects of Ebola on their country as well as the entire world.
Chelsea Middle School’s 6th grade team of Ecuador was awarded one of three Honorable Mentions for Outstanding Nation based on their overall performance over the two day conference.
6th grade team members were Ryan Engle, Chase Coward, Holden Griswold, David Owens, Katherine Wilkinson, Kaya Whitfield, and Emily Gray Cannon. 7th grade team members were Jordan Mann, Aly Carroll, Kenley Irwin, Ana Freeman, Patrick Shaw, Cotney Castleberry, and Samarth Kumar. The team sponsors are Kathleen Collins and Michelle Caiola.
Rather than issuing a resolution about a problem in Canada, the HMS group choose to tackle the problem of forced labor in Uzbekistan. Their resolution was titled “A Resolution to Terminate Slavery in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Fields through the Utilization of Modern Agriscience and Harvest Mechanization.” Uzbekistan, the world’s fifth largest producer of cotton, is the only country that still uses forced labor to harvest crops. The HMS resolution won an Honorable Mention award.
The team members from HMS were Ross Tolbert, Samantha Chancellor, Carley Barrett, Gabriel Dorsey, Jessie Zou, Alaynna Surcouf, Tiffany McIver. The team sponsor is Abby Day.
Not only were the students impacted by the experience of attending the JUNA Assembly, but their sponsors were also.
“JUNA is a great experience that invites students to define any problem in world events, pick a country to represent, research the topic and create an action plan,” said Chelsea Middle School teacher, Kathleen Collins.
“At the General Assembly the delegates were exposed to heart rending global issues on child slavery, child labor, gender inequality, poverty, health, education in other countries, and voted the resolutions as favorable and unfavorable,” said Montevallo Middle School teacher Mona Guraya. “The students are to be commended for their commitment, hard work, and effective collaboration in the JUNA process. They all emerged as leaders, and it is hoped that this experience has laid a foundation to equip, empower, and enable the students to spend themselves on the behalf of the needy , meet the needs of the oppressed, and “Be the change they wish to see in the world (Ghandi)”.