Model UN has helped Roaring Fork High School seniors grow as people |

Model UN has helped Roaring Fork High School seniors grow as people

Carla Jean Whitley
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Chelsey Serrano and Iliana Castillon didn't have major aspirations when they signed up for Roaring Fork High School's Model United Nations club. Serrano's brother was part of the club, and it seemed like a fun way to become more involved during her sophomore year. Castillon's interest was piqued by the club's annual trip to New York City.

Three years later, they share the title of secretary general. Serrano and Castillon will lead the school's Model U.N. club as it travels to its fourth Model U.N. Conference in New York, from March 6 to 10.

"I join clubs just because I want to try something new, and then I become really passionate about whatever I do," Castillon said.

She and Serrano also serve in leadership positions for a number of other school clubs, including Energy Club and Rampage, the school's newspaper.

The Model U.N. has been one of several formative experiences for the girls, who are now seniors. The conference simulates the U.N. General Assembly, and students are assigned a country and issues before arrival. They research the global problems on the agenda, and then work through strategy and resolutions.

This year, RFHS will send 30 students to the conference. They'll represent Cote d'Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, and Denmark. Castillon and Serrano are researching LGBTQ issues and ways to protect the safety of journalists.

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None of the Roaring Fork club members spoke during the school's first appearance at the conference.

"Watching our kids confidently, professionally and eloquently go up and fight for their specific cause — that's been the biggest shift," said RFHS Vice Principal Kelsie Goodman.

She also notes Castillon and Serrano's dedication, in particular. The 2017 trip meant they were unable to take the SAT at home. The girls instead registered for a New York testing location. As with everything at the conference, they were responsible for getting themselves to and from the test.

On the girls' first trip, during their sophomore year, Castillon was overwhelmed by the number of people on her assigned committee. It was as though "my entire school was in one room." Once she realized many others likely shared that emotion, Castillon was able to settle in.

"It also brings in perspective," she said.

The students are accustomed to seeing the world's issues from an American position, and Model U.N. preparation requires them to examine other points of view.

It's prepared them for their futures in multiple ways. Both girls are considering computer science as a college major, and Serrano also is interested in psychology. But first, she'll spend two weeks in Kenya with the McBride Africa Internship. She expects it to extend her cultural awareness.

Serrano said, "I hope I can grow and change in different ways."


Roaring Fork High School students will participate in the Model United Nations conference in New York City, March 6 to 10. The cost is $1,000 per student, and they are raising money via a GoFundMe page. To donate, visit