Seventeen-year-old Chantal Gregory didn't know much about the United Nations.
That changed when the United Nations, comprised of 191 nations, failed to endorse the United States' military action in Iraq.
"It made me really interested in the U.N. -- what they're all about and their peacekeeping policies," the Hayden High School junior said.
Gregory and fellow student Eric Cromie, 16, also a junior, will get a first-hand look into the inner workings of the nearly 50-year-old world security and peacekeeping organization this summer.
The two are part of a small group of Colorado students chosen to join teenagers from throughout the nation and world for a free trip to U.N. headquarters in New York, where they will sit in on General Assembly meetings in addition to touring historical sights during the July 3 through 15 trip to Washington, D.C., Boston and Philadelphia.
"I've sort of always looked at things in a political view," Cromie said. "I think it will be cool to go to the place where it all happens."
State Rebekah Assemblies and Odd Fellow organizations sponsor the two-week trip. Local chapters encourage students to apply.
"These kids really, really need insight into what the rest of the world has to offer," said Jeannie Wixson, secretary of Hayden Rebekah Lodge 75. "They really need to see what else is out there."
Students must be 16 or older and have one year of high school remaining to qualify for the Rebekah and Odd Fellows U.N. Trip. In addition to writing a fact and opinion-based essay about the pros and cons of the war in Iraq, Gregory and Cromie had to pass a test showing general familiarity with the United Nations.
Competition for the trip typically is pretty tough, Wixson said. She wasn't sure how many candidates there were in Colorado this year, but there are about 100 Rebekah and Odd Fellow chapters in the state, each of which may have nominated several students.
Cromie, who sometimes has a hard time engaging other students in political discussions, looks forward to meeting other teenagers interested in world politics.
In a small town, it's easy to separate yourself from national and international events and issues, he said.
"In this age, things are affecting us more and more ... some people may have a hard time seeing that," said Cromie, who plans to share what he learns on the trip with other students and people in the Hayden community.
In the 10 years that the Hayden Rebekah Lodge has sent candidates' essays into the state competition, six students have been chosen, Wixson said.
"We help them a lot ... it's whether someone wants to take the time to help," she said.