High School Students Participate in Model UN Conference, Receive Award of Distinction

In early March, nearly two dozen BH-BL High School students in CIVITAS Club joined more than 5,000 students from 70 countries around the world in participating in the National High School Model United Nations conference in New York City.

“This conference is one of the most distinguished Model UN conferences in the world,” explains high school teacher and club co-advisor Dearbhla Fay. “Our students have been researching and preparing all year and did an incredible job representing. As an added bonus, it was beyond exciting that two BH-BL students, Emily Pearson and Matt Lepel, as a delegate pair, were honored with the prestigious Award of Distinction for their representation of Uruguay in the United National Convention Against Corruption committee.”

“This is the highest award given at this conference, and it’s the first time BH-BL has received it!” adds Fay.

Model UN is an educational simulation centered around a series of programs run internationally with the goals of furthering understanding about the United Nations, educating students about international relations and world issues, and promoting peace and the work of the UN through cooperation and diplomacy. At the beginning of the year, BH-BL students are assigned a country and are required to write a position paper about their stance on an assigned topic and support it with research. At the conference, committee sessions rotate through the speakers list, moderated caucuses, and unmoderated caucuses, which is where some students find themselves contributing to real discussions. It is during these sessions that blocs are formed and resolutions are written.

“In preparation for the conference, I had to write a 10-page research paper with my partner about my topic, which revolved around national commitments to fighting climate change–and Uruguay has rather strong strong policies towards ending climate change,” says BH-BL High School student Miles Bechtel. “During the conference, I worked with my partner to deliver speeches as well as collaborate with dozens of other delegates from around the world. Meeting other high schoolers from countries like Mexico, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, and Finland was eye-opening, as I made friends and gained insight into life outside Burnt Hills.”

Fay explains that while the main event for the weekend in NYC is the three-day conference filled with committees and debating, they arrange other events so the students can experience a bit of culture, history and the arts, too.  For example,  the students visited the Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library, where they took a guided tour of the museum and immersed themselves in the large installation exhibit. They also traveled to Brooklyn to a Uruguayan restaurant where the owner spoke to them about Uruguayan cuisine, its influences and history, and introduced every food course to them. After the second day of the conference , they took the subway downtown to see Wall Street, the iconic charging bull, and views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline from the Staten Island Ferry. They also spent time at the 9/11 memorial and the Oculus. After the third day of the conference, the students were able to squeeze in a show Broadway.

“It was a fun, upbeat way to round out three hard days of debating, negotiating, and trying to solve complex world issues,” adds Fay.

“Attending the Model UN Conference in New York City is an amazing experience,” said Emily Pearson.  “I have done Model UN for three years now and it is great to see how many more people have joined our team. [There are more than 50 students in the CIVITAS Club.] It is an invaluable opportunity to speak and debate with other teens from all over the world. Learning how to be diplomatic and share ideas are two very important skills that I feel like I have been able to practice and strengthen through my time at Model UN. Plus, there is no greater city to spend a long weekend experiencing the culture, history and arts.”

To get involved in Model UN work, please contact Ms. Fay or Mrs. Tolan.