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A Celebration of Dedication, Hard Work and Intelligence

The 2024 Southwest Florida Model UN (SWFLMUN) competition was a two-day celebration of the dedication, hard work and intelligence of our young people. Multiple teams of students from area high schools brought months of study and preparation to the event and debated issues of global significance in a model structure set up to resemble the workings of the United Nations.

The students, as well as the dozens of adults from NCWA, 18 high schools and Florida Gulf Coast University, came away the better for the intense experience. Here are some highlights. 

Daniela Barata Herrera

The Keynote Speaker: An Inspiring Alumna

Daniela Barata Herrera, an alumna of the SWFL Model UN program, delivered the keynote speech at the 2024 closing ceremony. Born in Havana, Cuba, where she might have lived a life of poverty and without the potential to develop her talents, she came to Florida with her parents, who escaped Cuba by fleeing to Chile and then came to the U.S.

In 2016, Daniela led her Cape Coral High School team to first place in that year's special Model UN contest, the Syrian refugee competition. Also, she and her teammates recognized the importance of transportation in socioeconomic progress and organized a bike-a-thon fundraiser that facilitated the delivery of 600 bicycles to orpans in Losotho through the nonprofit "Working Bikes."

She graduated with an international baccalaureate diploma in 2017 from Cape Coral High School and received her B.S. degree in molecular and cellular biology from Johns Hopkins University. After graduation she completed a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, delving into the molecular mechanisms of aging. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she engaged in public health initiatives at Johns Hopkins, contributing to health literaacy campaigns for Spanish speakers. She is scheduled to earn her M.D. degree in 2027 from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

While contributing to research on skin cancer chemoprevention, Daniela stays committed to local initiatives at Hopkins free clinics, focusing on addressing healthcare disparities for Latinos in Baltimore. 

Listen to an interview with Daniela on WGCU radio by clicking here

Some of the Winners in the 2024 Model UN Competition

Maureen O'Gorman presents the Thomas J. O'Gorman Memorial Award for $2,500 to Colin Briggs of Gulf Coast High School
while Edie Hunt, left, looks on.

Edie Hunt presents the Amb. Gregor Zore Memorial Award for $2,500 to Aarnav Sheth of Gulf Coast High School while Maureen O'Gorman, seated, observes.

Mimi Gregory presents the Mimi Gregory Award
for $2,500 to Global Scholar Maya Doonan of Gulf Coast High School while, seated from left, Maureen O'Gorman, Edie Hunt and John Johnson look on.

John Johnson presents the Jinny and John Johnson Award for $2,000 to Katie Blackwell of North Fort Myers High School.

The Lynn Knox Coach of the Year Award was presented to two coaches of student teams from Gulf Coast High School, Susan Soulard and Kristan Welty. The award is named for Lynn Knox, retired international student coordinator and English teacher at Bishop Verdot High School.

Special competition awards for the subject "Dealing with International Migration" went to Immokalee High School, first place, $500; Lely High School, second place, $350; and Gulf Coast High School, third place, $200. Other prizes were:

  • Best position paper -- Aaron Pryear, Gulf Coast High School
  • Most improved school -- North Fort Myers High School
  • Top School Awards -- Gulf Coast High School, first prize, $1,000; Port Charlotte High School, second prize, $750; North Fort Myers High School, third prize, $350
  • Best Single Performance by any Delegate -- Jack Welsby, Gulf Coast High School, $2,000
  • Ralph Bunche Award for Top Senior -- Abigail Shaw, Gulf Coast High School, $6,500
  • Mimi Gregory Award -- Maya Doonan, Gulf Coast High School, $2,500
  • Ron Gymer Memorial Award --Grant Worden, Port Charlotte High School, $2,500
  • Thomas J. O'Gorman Memorial Award -- Colin Briggs, Gulf Coast High School, $2,500
  • Amb. Gregor Zore Memorial Award -- Aarnav Sheth, Gulf Coast High School, $2,500
  • David and Beverly Worthington Award -- Sophia Cadavid, Gulf Coast High School, $2,000
  • Jinny and John Johnson Award -- Katie Blackwell, North Fort Myers High School, $2,000
  • George Gotchall Memorial Award -- Avery Gauthier, Port Charlotte High School, $1,500
  • Iqbal and Shelby Mamdani Award -- Mai Martinez, North Fort Myers High School, $1,500

Abigail Shaw of Gulf Coast High School won the Ralph Bunche Award for top senior and $6,500. Alan Van Egmond, Model UN chair, presented the award for Richard Clemens, the major contributor to the award, who could not attend.

Grant Worden of Port Charlotte High School won the Ron Gymer Memorial Award and $2,500. Alan Van Egmond presented the award for Marianne Gymer, who could not attend.

For more details on NCWA'S 31st annual Model UN competition, go to the SWFLMUN website at

Almost 100 volunteers offered their time and talents as judges for the 2024 Model UN competition.

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