Last month, 34 students from Lakeland Union High School traveled to the Global Classrooms International Model UN Conference, held May 15-17, at United Nations Headquarters and the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.
At the conference, students split up into pairs to represent Australia and Saudi Arabia in individual committees. Each committee is centered around a certain topic or issue and consists of students from different schools who work together in order to develop solutions for these real-world issues.
“You go in having written a position paper, an outline of how you feel about the topic itself, and maybe some ideas on how you would like to solve the issue,” said Matt Schlichter, who represented Saudi Arabia on the Environmental Committee.
“Once you get there you start working with other countries and other kids, and you try to draft a resolution together. Then you end up voting on the resolutions that people have come up with at the conference,” Schlichter said.
While working and negotiating in committee sessions, the Lakeland delegation got to meet a diverse group of students. More than 1,500 high schoolers attended the conference, and roughly 35 perdent were foreign students. The Lakeland delegation was the only school from Wisconsin and – to a larger degree – the greater midwest.
Unlike many of the other schools that attended, LUHS does not provide a Model UN class. Despite this, the Lakeland delegation performed at an impressive level and won fifth place for combined delegation (out of more than 30 schools). Two pairs of Lakeland students – representing Australia on the Security Council and Saudi Arabia on the Crime & Drug Committee – won Best Position Paper awards for their committees. Lakeland also won an award for video production.
Lakeland’s impressive performance didn’t come easy though, many hours were dedicated to preparation and research.
“We have to do a lot of research prior to going there,” Schlichter said. “You have to research every angle – all of the political concerns and how the country operates – and then try to put yourself in that country’s mindset.”
Thankfully, the students were able to rely on the teaching staff to guide and assist them in their preparation. Social studies teacher and Model UN advisor Frank Keeler was integral in pushing the students to succeed.
“Keeler would give us a huge binder to fill with research,” said senior Erin Bolger. “If you’d come to him for help he would shoot you a bunch of questions and if you didn’t know the answers he would tell you to go back and do more research. So you basically have to become an expert on your country. If you want to be good then you have to put in that effort.”
The dedicated effort that the students put in to get to conference not only paid off when they did well in committee sessions, but also because it gave them the opportunity to travel to New York City. Outside of conference, the students managed to fit in a heavy load of site-seeing, some of which truly resonated.
“9-11 never seemed quite that real until I got there and saw the site,” Bolger said.
In addition to the September 11th Memorial, the students visited Ellis Island, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Today Show, Wall Street, the Apollo Theater, and Grand Central Station, to name a few locations.
Postcards, souvenirs, and awards weren’t the only thing that students brought home though, they developed and honed a diverse set of skills during the conference.
“I feel like persuasion is a big area where you get to improve,” said senior Thomas Bruckner. “You have to persuade people into believing what you do and try to get them to be signatories to your resolution.”
Public speaking, cooperation, negotiation, and how to formally present yourself were among the other skills that the students highlighted.
“I think its a really good opportunity, not only to travel to a bigger city like that, but to be able to work with kids that I’ve never met, to try and meet new people and cooperate with them to find solutions to problems. Its just a really good experience overall,” Schlichter said.
“Like Keeler said,” Bolger added, “we put Lakeland on the map at the conference.”
Michael Strasburg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.