Even as recently as a year ago, I was not aware of an organization called the National High School Model U.N. It simply was not on my horizon. With the advent of my granddaughter’s becoming a freshman at our regional high school, my horizon has changed, broadened, expanded and become much more colorful.
My husband and I have just returned from being chaperones for 13 young people from our high school, our granddaughter included, as they attended the 2014 NHSMUN conference in New York city. They were among 3,600 high school delegates from all over the world, convened for a “learning through simulation” experience, and becoming a model U.N. for four days.
For four days, it was our honor and privilege to visit simulated U.N. committee sessions as these amazing young people debated issues, wrote position papers, created resolutions, amended those same resolutions and worked together to get resolutions passed.
In the process we observed them learning how to work cooperatively with total strangers, how to share diverse views and opinions and work toward mutual understanding in the service of a higher good. We watched as kids took on the identity of the countries they were assigned to represent at the U.N. — learning about serious issues from the perspective of their assigned countries, learning how to respect opinions they did not agree with and how to find diplomatic ways to move the debate forward.
In the committee sessions we observed the building of alliances on many levels, from the level of simulated political and diplomatic debate to the more mundane level of the more experienced kids helping the “newbies” learn how to function in their committees across the lines of their “national interests.”
We watched kids gain confidence in finding their voices to speak in behalf of their assigned countries in debate, progressing from rapidly beating hearts and sweaty palms to being able to state their positions clearly and with confidence over the course of the conference.
A highlight of the weekend was observing our 13 MVRHS delegates, ranging in age from 14 to 18, as they interacted around some very difficult issues in a briefing session with the permanent representative to the U.N. from Uganda, our high school’s assigned country. I sat, astounded, impressed and proud of the way these young people were able to maintain a mature and open receptivity as they listened to His Excellency’s gracious briefing on the country they were assigned to represent. I was even more impressed by the way they were able to take the information he gave them and weave it into the debate when they returned to their committee sessions.
We came home high as the proverbial kite, feeling renewed hope that if the world is going to be in the hands of these kids in a few more years, we might just be okay.
As the kids cut loose on the dance floor on the final night of the conference, we were reassured that they are very normal, energetic teenagers who just happen to have exceptional interests and abilities, and a burning desire to make the world a better place.
We both want to express our gratitude to Ellie H., August, Thorpe, Stephanie, Charlotte, Russell, Maddy, Ellie, Luke, Josie, Pearl, Willa and Lucy, great human beings all, for the privilege of traveling with them. Parents, school and Island can be so proud of them.
A special thanks to Cindy West, faculty advisor for the group. Her passion, patience, sense of humor and incredible organizational skills made a very complex undertaking run smoothly. We would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Vicky and Armen Hanjian