Soldotna Montessori students changing the world

Posted: Friday, February 29, 2008

In April, 24 students from Soldotna Montessori Charter School will travel to New York City to participate in the Montessori Model United Nations.

This is the second year that elementary students have had an opportunity to participate in Model U.N. and Soldotna Montessori has been selected to go to New York both years.

"(Last year the students) came back realizing they could take action and have a significant impact on the world," said Mo Sanders, the school's administrator. "Now they think that they could have a role in the adult political world."

Twenty-five schools will represent the 51 nations involved in the U.N. Soldotna Montessori will be responsible for Pakistan, Slovakia and the United States.

At last year's conference, the U.S. was not assigned to any school due to the immense number of issues posed to American delegates, but after Soldotna Montessori's performance last year, they were given the U.S.

"It's hard for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders to see the United States in a clear political perspective," Sanders said. "They see some of the positions that the United States has actually taken and it can kind of put them off a bit. So they have to be objective."

Last year, Model U.N. delegates voted on a number of proposals, but only five were passed and sent on to the actual U.N. General Assembly. Three of those were proposed by Soldotna Montessori.

"Our school had such a strong showing and did such a good job that they went ahead and gave our school the United States," said Paula DiPaolo, a parent volunteer.

DiPaolo's daughter is part of the team taking on the challenge. She will act as the U.N. high commissioner for refugees at the conference, specifically dealing with refugees from Iraq and Darfur. According to DiPaolo, the other students are responsible for issues relating specifically to their country of representation.

"The kids really do understand it and they take it to heart and really want to make an impact," she said.

Students are selected to participate based on a written piece as well as an oral presentation. Both are judged by peers and adults.

"Kids who didn't go last year and really wanted to go this year worked really hard at that," Sanders said.

With 24 students attending the conference, Sanders said that the trip is costing a "small fortune." Since the state does not fund field trips, the students are responsible for raising the money to go.

As part of their effort, the school is hosting a spaghetti dinner tonight at the Soldotna Sports Center. The event will feature a cash drawing and silent and call out auctions as well as live music by local artists. Food will be served from 5:30 to 7:30 and the entertainment will last until 10. Cost is $20 per family.

Sanders and DiPaolo both said that the delegates come away from their experience with Model U.N. feeling that they have the power to change the world.

"The biggest outcome of an academic career in any school is to see the stuff in real life," Sanders said. "It's a pretty dynamic application of concepts that otherwise you'd just read about in a text book."

Students selected to participate in this years' trip are Juliet Bramante, Celestina Castro, Natalie Chennault, Katelin Christenson, Ashley Eby, Megan English, Kelty Fair, Scott Haberman, Jory Hubbard, Fletcher Iverson, Wren Norwood, Leah Reed, Danny Schaeffer, Matti Silta, Carolyn Sisson, Caitlin Steinbeck, Courtney Stroh and Mickey Squires.

Hannahlee Allers can be reached at

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