Thirty-six Elmont Free Union School District students took the role of United Nations representatives as they discussed agriculture and stability at the 13th annual Lee Model U.N. Conference on May 31. The LEEMUN Conference gives fifth- and sixth-graders a chance to simulate the proceedings in the U.N. and to engage in multilateral diplomacy. Elmont District Assistant Director of Pupil Personnel Services Helisse Palmore, who set up the conference, said it lets students learn to how to be representatives and grow as humanitarians.
“It gives the children a chance to research global issues and see how it relates to their own lives and the lives of others,” Palmore said.
Gotham Avenue School’s Osagie Ekhator and Anielia Bryan, who represented Sudan, were among the many students who spoke about their nation’s struggle with hunger and how global programs could help stabilize their country. Ekhator and Bryan, who were the first to present, started with an anecdote that highlighted the difference in hunger between the United States and Sudan.
“Many of you might have rushed to this conference and forgotten to eat, so now you’re hungry,” Ekhator said. “But there are people in Sudan who are killing each other for a piece of bread.”
The students had spent months researching their respective countries and preparing speeches and questions for the conference, and Model U.N. students from Sewanhaka High School assisted their younger counterparts in learning U.N. proceedings and rules. The fifth- and sixth-graders addressed each other courteously and always asked how each member’s nation stood in terms of wealth, food security and agriculture dependence whenever the representatives spoke.
Lee Marcus, the founder of Sewanhaka Central High School District’s Model U.N. program, said he was skeptical when Elmont Superintendent Al Harper asked him to bring the program to elementary schools back in 2005.
“Yet the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders in this district have accepted the challenges asked of them and exceeded all expectations,” Marcus said.
Sewanhaka’s Model U.N. program is now celebrating its 40th year since Marcus introduced it at Elmont Memorial High School. The 14th annual LEEMUN Conference will take place next year at the Elmont Memorial Library.