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Penn recently launched a Model Organization of American States program that will soon engage students from local high schools in Philadelphia.

Although many universities nationwide have been participating in MOAS for the past 36 years, Penn has recently joined their legions thanks to two Latin American Studies professors.

The OAS was founded in 1948 by the United States and 20 Latin American nations in order to promote diplomacy and collaboration. MOAS debate conferences simulate the proceedings of the OAS Permanent Council and of the annual regular sessions of the General Assembly of the OAS, in which students practice general debate, lobbying, caucusing and negotiation, and participate in working groups.

Associate Director of Latin American and Latino Studies Catherine Bartch explained the program's function.

“Our program is three parts,” she said. “The first part is going to be a spring semester on international organizations in Latin America. I teach the course and then the students participate in the Washington D.C. model of the OAS simulation for a week.” 

Many universities with MOAS programs attempt to reflect the yearly theme of the OAS, which is "Democracy in Crisis" for 2018.  

Catherine Bartch

Similarly, the Latin American and Latin Studies department is holding a new course in the fall semester called "Democracy in Trouble: OAS to the Rescue," which will include about 18 undergraduates and have high school students from the Philadelphia region participate, said Bartch.  

Director of Latin American and Latin Studies and Political Science professor Tulia Falleti discussed her motive to incorporate Philadelphia high school students into the program. 

Tulia Falleti

“We thought it would be great to have an outreach component with high school students, mainly from disadvantaged neighborhoods,” she said. “Seeing as this is a program that deals with Latin American issues, we were targeting Latin American students to participate in the course. We’re hoping to attract a decent portion of students from Latino and other minority groups.” 

Currently, there are three prospective high schools interested in participating in MOAS: Central High School, Kensington CAPA, and West Philadelphia High School. Also, students enrolled in the CCATE after school program in Morristown will be engaging in the program.

College freshman Beverlye Gedeon described why she enrolled in MOAS and her experiences participating in the program so far. 

“I wanted to take the class because back home in Haiti, I saw a lot of the work that international organizations do in my country and it made me really interested in their interventions,” she said. “My favorite part of the course has been participating in model OAS and learning about the issues that Latin American countries face.”

Bartch added that Penn's MOAS program will also offer summer internships, with a more official line of internships available next year that will be funded directly from Penn Global.  

On March 23, OAS secretary general Luis Almagro visited the Perry World House at the student-led Wharton Latin America Conference at Penn to kick off the official launch of the MOAS program.  

“I am very excited about Penn’s partnership with the OAS on the MOAS program, which will be a unique global learning opportunity for Penn undergraduates and local high school students,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Steven J. Fluharty wrote in an email. “It will draw on so many things that Penn does well, from our academic strength in international relations, the study of democracy, and Latin American studies to our long commitment to service learning.”