Students gain leadership skills through Model U.N.
Students gain leadership skills and a global perspective through Model U.N.
Posted on 04/02/2015

Model UN Security CouncilAt the 29th Minnesota Model United Nations conference, which took place March 26-28 in Minneapolis, 60-plus District 197 middle and high school students had the opportunity to represent a robust number of nations and viewpoints. But over its 15-year history in the district, the Model U.N. program has proven to be more than just another co-curricular opportunity for students; it helps students develop valuable, lifelong skills.

“This program offers students an opportunity to develop skills in negotiation, research, public speaking, and writing, while also developing an informed global perspective,” said Rhonda Fox, Sibley’s Model U.N. advisor. “In the months before a conference students study a chosen nation’s history, culture, economy, and system of government as they prepare to represent a country from its unique perspective.”

Students put their newfound knowledge and skills to the work when they attend the Model U.N. conference. During the conference students act as ambassadors and replicate the U.N. General Assembly, which includes nearly 200 countries. They also take part in or observe sub-committees, such as the Security Council or the International Court of Justice. Throughout the many mock-meetings, participating students are able to discuss current events, debate, and learn about issues of global importance (i.e., global warming and human rights).

“The whole Model U.N. program really opens your mind to listening to others viewpoints, not only on the world stage but also as individuals,” said Jenny Gravelle, a senior at Henry Sibley. “It helps you appreciate the validity of others opinions and [the importance of] going to the source of the opinion. It’s about taking the time to really listen; that’s something that I’ve learned.”

When it is all brought together, students participating in Model U.N. engage in an immersive activity that fosters the development of invaluable skills. Leadership, communication, and the ability to understand an issue from multiple perspectives continue to be skills in demand by colleges and future employers.

“Model U.N. gives you an opportunity to get more comfortable speaking in front of others. It also helps you become more comfortable disagreeing with others respectfully, while still listening to other people’s opinions,” Gravelle said.

Gravelle, who has served as a chairperson for Sibley’s Model U.N. club for a number of years, says she has also benefited from opportunities to work in groups with her classmates, coordinate projects and organize fellow club members.

Model UN three students 
 Henry Sibley Model U.N. delegates Juliet Dupont, Kari Bruestle and Isabel Sander.

Students are eligible to participate in Model U.N. starting in seventh grade, though many students begin in high school without prior experience.

Middle school students at the state conference attend a separate General Assembly and sub-councils, such as a Junior Security Council. During these training years, experienced Model U.N. members, such as Gravelle, assist their younger counterparts as they learn the proper procedures.

Henry Sibley sophomore Juliet Dupont credits the leadership development structure of Model U.N. for keeping her involved in the club and for inspiring her to now apply for mentor positions.

“I started participating in Model U.N. in seventh grade and had an opportunity to work with older students,” said Dupont. “Watching the high school leaders I knew how far I could grow. It gave me a goal and a different outlook on leadership—at the conference and even at school in other activities.”

The Model U.N. clubs at Henry Sibley, Heritage E-STEM Magnet and Friendly Hills Middle School begin organizing for each conference at the start of the school year. Students interested in attending the 2016 conference are encouraged to talk to their school’s advisor or listen for more information in the daily announcements in the fall.

Learn more about Model U.N., a program of the YMCA Twin Cities.

List of Friendly Hills students participating in Model U.N. during the 2014-15 school year: Sarina Boley (8), Casha Burns (7), Christopher Figueroa (8), Emma Forouhari (8), Mia Forouhari (7), James Landsman (7), Zakary Lindgren (7), Huda Mohamed (7), Eileen Mueller (7), Steven Patton (7), Madeline Smith (7), Autumn Whipps (7), and Kieran White (8). Adviser: Elizabeth Klinkner

 Friendly Hills Model UN delegates
 Friendly Hills Middle School's delegates for the 29th Minnesota Model United Nations conference.