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Crestline Students representing Columbia at JUNA won awards for Outstanding Native Dress and team member Ann Douglas Lott won Outstanding Girl Delegate and Bascombe Traywick won Honorable Mention as Outstanding Boy Delegate.
At the end of January, nearly 300 students from across Alabama gathered at Birmingham-Southern College dressed as natives of nations including Zimbabwe, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Brazil. The event was the 21st annual Junior United Nations Assembly (JUNA), a tradition that Mountain Brook students have enjoyed for 21 years. The students didn’t just dress as citizens of different nations; they discussed the problems faced by each nation and how other countries might work together to solve them.
What compels sixth, seventh and eighth graders to discuss water sanitation, counterfeit drugs, refugee camps and drought prevention in Africa?
“Students go in to JUNA with a thirst for knowledge and go out with the same, but also with a new storehouse of valuable knowledge and a profound sense of leadership. The experience transforms the students and prepares them as leaders of our country,” said Katy Kiser, PAGE teacher and JUNA sponsor at Brookwood Forest Elementary.
And some kids get hooked on JUNA and return year after year, serving as committee chairs, officers and other leadership positions.
“I have been involved in JUNA for the past six years,” said Carson Jones, a junior at MBHS and employee of JUNA. “I have yet to see another program that does as much as JUNA. We bring kids from across the state together to solve the world’s problems. They engage each other in intelligent conversation and debate in order to find the best solutions. They learn about the world, they meet people from many different walks of life, and they experience something that will stay with them forever. It is truly one of the best experiences one can have at their age.”
Carson Jones, a junior at Mountain Brook High School and JUNA’s Director of Technology, created a comprehensive website for the organization. Live feeds via reJUNA and Twitter kept parents and teachers updated on the latest events at JUNA.
“Carson is a perfect example of following a passion and channeling talent and hard work into something that benefits hundreds of people,” said Melinda Story, member of JUNA and former sponsor. “It’s a million times better thanks to his innovations over the years.”
Other Mountain Brook students serving as officers at JUNA include Mary Keller Greene, George Keller and Arman Niknafs. Security Council Monitors included Benjamin Honan, Margaret Koopman, Dailey Nichols and Marc Straus. Committee chairmen and ambassadors included Jack Martin, Emily McLean, Annie Somerville, Patrick Trammell and Madalyn Rosenthal.
“JUNA was a wonderful process for my students and myself as an educator. In just a few months my students went from smart kids to students of the world. JUNA has exposed my kids to both the wonders and hurts of the world,” said Mandi Lybrand, Mountain Brook Elementary’s PAGE teacher and JUNA sponsor.
Hearing students discuss and debate Syria’s situation, shark finning, child labor and human rights is impressive.
“It is young people leading young people in very advanced worldwide decisions. At times the conclusions are not always the most rational, but the children arrived at the decisions themselves which it the beauty of it!” said Sandy Martin, mother of delegate Jack Martin.
For more information, visit www.junaofalabama.com.