BC High Model UN simulates the work of the United Nations General Assembly, its seven main committees, and additional U.N. bodies. Students role play delegates to the United Nations. They improve their public speaking, learn the fundamentals of diplomacy and the art of negotiation, and discuss current issues that come before the United Nations. In the past students have participated at local high school Saturday conferences as well as overnight conferences at the College of William and Mary, Duke University, Georgetown University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and University of Georgia. The club also tours the United Nations in New York City. Finally, BC High hosts its own conference on the first Saturday in March, where our students host high school students in a one day conference.
The BC High Model United Nations Club has one of the largest student memberships in the United States. With over 250 active members, BC High Model UN delegates can participate in many ways: weekly meetings, Saturday conferences, or overnight college conferences. Some students participate seasonally, so that one can play a sport or participate in a theater arts production and still be a member of the Model UN Club.
On November 12, 2015, twenty three BC High Model UN delegates and three teachers boarded a JetBlue flight from Boston to San Francisco, where we would spend five days at the Stanford University Model United Nations Conference.
We chose the Stanford University conference because it is large and diverse, with over 800 students from across California, Mexico, British Columbia, and the Caribbean. It also offered an excellent array of world issues to discuss and to solve. The Stanford conference has its student delegates seek solutions to the world’s problems, not just discuss them.
Sitting in actual Stanford classrooms was significant for our students because it exposed them to the culture of the school. Stanford was a place where students solved problems. And that was their mission at the Stanford Model UN conference: to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the planet. Our students developed solutions for climate change, stopping ISIS, preventing the spread of infectious diseases in the less developed world, running a more just 2016 US presidential race, and eliminating injustice for girls across the planet. This experience helped them appreciate the practicality of their education and the necessity for their leadership to bring just change to the world.
The opportunity to tour northern California, including Alcatraz Island, Half Moon Bay, the Jesuit school Santa Clara University, made the decision attend Stanford’s conference more attractive, as did an impromptu tour of the University’s football stadium by a native of Brookline who worked in the Stanford ticket office. Winning some awards for our diplomatic negotiating skills was a bonus, especially since we were the only school from the Boston area in attendance.
But the key part to this trip, and for most other Model UN college excursions, was an opportunity for our students to experience their future roles and responsibilities as leaders. They had an uninhibited opportunity to imagine and to be hopeful. For example, Saturday night our students attended a Stanford trade-show style, social event for GirlUp . GirlUp is sponsored by the United Nations. The program promotes equal education, equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity for girls across the developed, developing, and less developed world. It increased our students’ awareness of salary inequity, better known as the glass ceiling, in the developed world such as the United States and it instructed our students about societal expectations placed upon girls—not non boys—in the less developed world, such as hauling potable water on a daily basis. For examples, our students sampled what it is like to walk a distance with potable water. Girls in this less developed world walk an average of 12 miles per day just to obtain potable water for their families.
“Here’s my solution.” “I opposed a resolution that was unfair today.” “I told Sri Lanka that you just can’t do that; it’s 2015.” “Clean water is a human right.” “I’ve got a great idea. Can I stay up past curfew to work on my resolution for tomorrow?” These are some of the comments overheard from our students who returned from their committee sessions. The Stanford Model UN gave our students opportunity and responsibility. It drove them to be leaders in their committees. And that participation taught them how hope occurs.