Second Street School’s Kentucky United Nations Assembly (KUNA) Club walked away from a conference in Louisville last week with the Outstanding Statesmanship Award. KUNA is put on by the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association.
“We were the only school to get that,” said Elly Gilbert, Frankfort Independent Schools gifted and talented specialist and KUNA adviser. “It was for our overall contribution to debate. We had a lot of kids up speaking. Every room I would go into, one of my kids was up talking.”
Second Street beat out 32 other schools, private and public, from across the state for the award.
Rebecca Vaught, an eighth-grade member of KUNA, said the Outstanding Statesmanship Award is voted on by YMCA staff and school advisers.
“Middle school students from all across the state go to two different conferences and we act like we’re the United Nations,” Audrey Gilbert, Elly Gilbert’s daughter, explained of KUNA. “We write resolutions and we have a security council that is in their own individual group. We have the different officers that are in the United Nations.”
Over the course of the three-day conference, representatives from each school present two resolutions they have researched and prepared for the event, Elly Gilbert said. Each school team chooses a country or two to research and represent during the conference. The resolutions are presented from the perspective of the countries.
During their conference, two resolutions were presented for consideration, disaster relief from the perspective of Haiti and a depression awareness resolution from the perspective of France. The disaster relief resolution passed and was adopted, but the depression awareness resolution didn’t, the students said.
“We try to pick countries that are diverse,” Elly Gilbert said. “I love to have a France, a wealthy nation, and then also Haiti, which is not as fortunate, so we can look at different issues and how does this issue affect both countries.”
France has one of the highest rates of depression in the world and yet depression doesn’t seem to be a severe issue because everyone is focused on survival, she said.
The adviser said the purpose of KUNA is to get middle school and high school students to focus on and consider their place in the world and issues impacting different nations in the world. There are students like seventh-grader Sam Gilbert, Elly Gilbert’s son, who walked away with a changed perspective.
“In the human rights simulation they talked about world hunger,” he said. “The secretary-general talked about how if you’re really hungry people will often say ‘I’m starving.’”
The mock secretary-general said a lot of Americans using that word are not actually starving. There are millions of people around the world starving and dying from lack of food, Sam Gilbert said.
“It got me to realize how privileged I was,” he said.
The Outstanding Statesmanship Award wasn’t the only award the Second Street School KUNA members returned home with. Audrey and Sam Gilbert received Outstanding Speakers awards for their debating skills, and Margaret Wilkerson received the Outstanding Ambassador Award.