Despite being from one of the smaller districts at the event, students with Moscow High School’s Model United Nations club were among top-ranked delegates to a Seattle conference that included teams from throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Club President Jules Carr-Chellman said last month’s event, known as PACMUN, included around 800 students assigned to 17 committees and other roles. He said six of Moscow’s 43-student delegation brought home one of the top-two awards afforded to committee members who displayed strong leadership skills.
“The top award you can receive in a committee is ‘best delegate,’ and then ‘outstanding delegate’ and then there’s also an honorable mention delegate,” explained club adviser Carly Bean. “We brought four best delegate awards home, which is pretty amazing, and then we brought two outstanding delegate awards home.”
“We cleaned house this year,” said Carr-Chelman. “Out of 17 committees, four of those committees were run and led by a Moscow student.”
Carr-Chellman said much of the work for Model U.N. conferences begins months ahead of the actual event. He said student-delegates are first assigned to represent specific countries in committees that correspond with real U.N. bodies. These students are then tasked with writing position papers addressing a pair of hypothetical geopolitical issues from the perspective of the country they are assigned to represent. Once at the conference, Carr-Chellman said students must faithfully represent their country’s interests in committee sessions and in formal and informal debate.
Carr-Chellman said one of the reasons he thinks Moscow students were so successful at this year’s event was their student-run club emphasises a specific training technique.
“We in our delegation encourage a ‘metacognitive’ type of learning that involves separating yourself from your position and trying to figure out a way to engage in the most productive discourse,” he said. “It trains students in a way that they aren’t trained in the classroom that provides, I think, probably one of the best experiences available to kids our age.”
Participating in Model U.N. does afford students a deeper understanding of the mechanics that go into international politics and diplomacy, Carr-Chellman said, but there’s more to it than geopolitical problem solving. He said some of the most important skills students glean from the program are the so-called “soft skills” built through teamwork, leadership and public speaking.
“I personally think that for a lot of the kids, especially our young delegates, the public speaking portion is huge,” Bean said. “When we get feedback from our students at the end of each conference … a big one is often kids saying, ‘by day two, I finally gave a speech and I’m really proud of myself.’ ”
Bean, who was one of three recognized at PACMUN as an “outstanding adviser,” said she’d love to take students to an additional conference in the spring, but the future of the club and its possible expansion hinges on funding. Currently, she said, club expenses are covered through a patchwork of contributions from groups like the Moscow Education Foundation, the high school’s Human Rights and International club and through student fundraising. While the club does provide full scholarships to those in need, she said many still end up paying north of $200 out-of-pocket per trip — even after each delegate spends a minimum of 20 hours fundraising.
Bean said she is currently investigating ways to tap into district funds earmarked for academic competitions and possibly seek sponsorship from local entities that see value in Model U.N.
“I’m not wanting (students) to get out of the fundraising, it just might be nice if we could give a little bit more back to the students,” she said. “Basically, if we raise more money, it means instead of costing $200, it might only cost the kids $100 or $150.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to email@example.com.