Shining at NATO challenge

Published 8:23 pm Monday, March 24, 2014

King’s Fork High School senior DeLauren Davis got a taste of international relations at the highest levels last Thursday as one of 28 student participants in an event simulating the diplomatic environment of the North Atlantic Council.

Davis, chairwoman of her school’s International Baccalaureate Student Advisory Board and vice president of the Senior Class Council, said she applied for the Model NATO Challenge, completing an application form and writing an essay on NATO responses to terrorism, after discovering the opportunity online.

DeLauren Davis

DeLauren Davis

“I had to analyze the different sectors they have to counteract terrorism,” she said of her essay. “One major event was 9/11; they had a lot of involvement with that. It (the essay) actually went hand-in-hand with a paper I had to write for NATO for school.”

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During the challenge, held at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, each student represented a different NATO member nation. Davis represented Spain, which she said was her third choice on her application.

“It was really exciting, but it was a little overwhelming,” Davis said of the overall experience.

In a room with a round table, simulating the North Atlantic Council meeting place in NATO’s Brussels, Belgium headquarters, countries were organized in alphabetical order, and soon got down to the business of “responding” to cases of piracy and cyber aggression.

Davis said she utilized what she had learning while researching for the exercise, and “tried to respond in a collective way.”

Building consensus was the name of the game, she said.

“I had to keep my country’s capabilities in mind, and try to offer what my country could offer without exerting all their assets and forces,” Davis added.

Students were paired with mentors who were nationals of the respective countries; Davis said hers was a Spanish naval commander.

“He was very awesome because he was very realistic,” she said. “He didn’t sugarcoat anything.”

Six scholarships will be awarded as part of the challenge, based on the essays and Thursday’s results, Davis said.

“They said we should hear the results this week.”

Davis said she had been accepted to attend the College of William and Mary — “My dream school since fifth grade,” she said — in the fall and hopes to also attend school in St. Andrews, Scotland, as part of a dual study program.

“I already know the American perspective, but I was able to gain more of an international perspective,” she said of the challenge experience. “I was able to gain insights into the strengths of other nations that I wasn’t aware of before.”

The challenge was part of the Norfolk NATO Festival, which recognizes and celebrates the international influence of the NATO Command in Norfolk and its 28 member nations, according to a news release.