Sixteen-year-old Sephra Serieux of St Joseph’s Convent is this year’s winner in the 16 to 19-year-old category of Rotary St Lucia’s Four Way Test Speech Competition. In second place was Khalil Atkinson of St Mary’s College. Sephra and Khalil represented their respective schools’ Interact Clubs, one of three junior programmes by the Rotary Club. The pair automatically qualified to represent Saint Lucia at the 2019 Model United Nations Youth Assembly in Trinidad and Tobago this March.
“I really enjoy public speaking and that was one of the reasons I got involved in this competition. As the PRO of my school’s Interact Club, I felt somewhat obligated to participate,” Sephra said about the first leg of the competition. Although she was edgy about entering, Sephra was delighted by the outcome, especially after completing the 2019 Model UN. As for Khalil, this was his second time qualifying to participate in Model UN. He was too ill to attend the first time. This year, as president of his school’s Interact Club, he was simply “grateful for getting another chance. I still anticipated MUN to be quite the experience and adventure.”
The interactive training and development activity Model UN was held on March 16 and 17 and the duo returned home excited about their new and interesting experience. Model UN is held in different parts of the world for secondary school students to perform a mock version of the UN General Assembly. Each student represents a country as a diplomat or ambassador debating for its social, cultural and economic needs in the international arena. For some Caribbean islands it has been organised by the Rotary Club of Trinidad and Tobago for the past twenty years. This year, students from the twin republic, Saint Lucia, Guyana and Saint Kitts-Nevis participated in the Rotary Club’s Model UN.
“Prior to arriving in Trinidad, preparation was intense and overwhelming,” said Sephra. “But I was still really excited about what was to come. The Model United Nations debate exceeded my expectations; it was undoubtedly one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Sephra represented the Republic of the Philippines. “Training consisted of extensive research on my country. I had to learn about its culture, policies, legislature and stance on the topic of migrant refugees.”
Said Khalil: “MUN taught me about the power of cooperation and change. We, as human beings, cannot be stagnant; we must always be on the move. We may all want to see our choices and decisions considered by others but to fullfill the entire picture we may need to sacrifice.” Khalil advises that any student offered the opportunity should take advantage of participating in Model UN.
Sephra says lessons from Model UN will last her a lifetime. “I met some amazing people from all over the region and this gave me a greater understanding of how different yet similar we are as Caribbean people. The debate itself was insightful. Being a foreign country’s diplomat forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to have a deeper understanding of a different part of the world.”
Sephra especially thanked her teacher, Jessmina Cooper, whom she says urged her to participate in the competition. Added Khalil: “I had the privilege of working with Rukayyah, Cheniece and Peaches who helped my partner Sephra and me become fully prepared for the conference. I really appreciated the fact that they were always there for us.”
Spehra and Khalil left an impression on organisers in Trinidad. A representative of the MUN committee said: “The students were well researched and able to properly articulate their points. Although they did admit to being nervous, which is expected, this was not apparent in their contributions. Both delegates were confident and firm.”