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Home > Spotlight on Teen Camps: International Relations

Spotlight on Teen Camps: International Relations

August 12th, 2009

Pictures by Hannah Salters

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727

Nikki Georgacakis (L) and counselors Holly Vradenburgh and Susanna Foote

Instructing students in a greater understanding of global issues and international diplomacy was the primary goal of the International Relations (IR) Teen Leadership Camp at Patrick Henry College. To this end, the camp orchestrated a simulated Model United Nations conference and instructed dozens of high-school students in some of the fundamentals of global relations.

The camp featured veteran PHC leadership, past and present, from among the College’s consistently high-achieving Model UN delegations. Those teams travel to New York City each spring, joining 5,000 college students from around the world in a rigorous academic simulation of the United Nations. Model UN gives students first-hand experience in multilateral diplomacy, bringing together students from a variety of different countries, backgrounds, and political views to discuss solutions to global issues such a nuclear proliferation and human trafficking.

PHC senior Nikki Georgacakis, a head delegate for the College’s award-winning National Model UN team this past spring, led the camp with assistance from senior Renee Benavidez (Government: International Politics & Policy). Jennifer Olmstead, a 2008 PHC graduate and former NMUN head delegate, chaired the Model UN sessions, while Dr. Stephen Baskerville, Associate Professor of Government, served as advisor. This veteran team provided students an intense, interactive week of research, debate, and diplomatic resolution of significant international issues in a real-world format.

“The week was covered in a lot of prayer,” Georgacakis recalls, “and I hope the students were inspired to engage, right now, in efforts that can alleviate the suffering of those who live in poorer conditions—both physically and spiritually—around the world.”

A particularly popular camp activity involved a full-day field trip to Washington, D.C., in which IR campers trekked to the Institute of World Politics to hear lectures from the Institute’s president and a former ambassador. The trip culminated in a visit to the Embassy of the Czech Republic, where Czech diplomats treated the group to a briefing.

“My favorite part was the Czech Embassy,” enthuses camper Abigail Kurtz. “We ate lunch in a sculpture garden!”

International Relations campers cool off during their DC field trip

Camper Travis Tornquist from Indianapolis said he especially enjoyed the Model UN sessions, in which he was assigned to represent the country of Nigeria. For the rest of the week, he was known to fellow campers and leadership simply as “Nigeria.” Their performance was judged, in part, by their ability to stay perpetually in character, acting out the attitudes and needs of their countries at all times, or lose points.

“I loved the political maneuvering—running around to talk to people and pass resolutions [during Model UN sessions],” he says.

More than the dramatic aspects of international role playing were Georgacakis’ intentions to instill in students a lifelong “appreciation for the significance of world affairs in their own lives, and the power that God’s wisdom and an extensive knowledge of foreign affairs can give them to affect change.

“I have become increasingly interested in global outreaches,” she says, “as well as those outreaches in America that rely on knowledge of foreign laws and affairs.”

Georgacakis’ passion for the international arena has impacted her chosen field of study. A former Government: American Politics & Policy track major at PHC, Georgacakis says she has switched to the general Government major in order to focus more within the realm of global affairs.

“After college, I hope to pursue studies in law with a focus on international relations,” she says. After a week of concentrated immersion in a number of the world’s critical concerns, it should come as no surprise if, someday, some of her teen camp charges follow a similar course.


Click on any of the pictures below for a larger view.