JEFFERSON — Harsh debates, intriguing topics, the streets of Chicago and new relationships all became very familiar to Jefferson Area High School’s Model United Nations Team on Feb. 6-10 when they attended the Model United Nations of the University of Chicago.
The students set forth on their eight-hour journey to the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 5.
Through a course of five days the students solved issues that real world leaders are currently debating, thus proving true that diplomacy and preparation can result in great success. Although they placed sixth out of more than 100 schools, they found their true victory in bonding with one another and learning life lessons as well as acquiring worldly knowledge. The conference, however, began before the students ventured to Chicago. The preparation in the months leading up to the event was worthwhile and an indicator of the students’ dedication. Model U.N. members were expected to arrive at school an hour before usual to attend classes twice a week. The advisers, Mary Beckwith and Nancy Hamper, helped their students prepare by requiring them to give policy statements explaining the stance of the nation that they were representing. Also, they were required to engage in mock debates weekly to simulate the competition they would experience at the conference.
“The best way that we helped students prepare for the conference was by questioning the students on their policy during simulations and checking their research often,” said Ms. Hamper.
The advisers guided the students on every level, from providing them with a packing check-list to pre-debate motivation sessions.
Councils at MUNUC could have been extremely intimidating because of their large sizes and high level of competition.
Melanie March, a senior Model U.N. member and four time MUNUC delegate, explained how she handled the conference. “My partner and I researched our topics a lot. We knew that we would work well together from previous experience. Giving policy statements weekly in class helped immensely,” she said.
March and Tayler Johnson, a junior, represented Belgium in the World Health Organization and received an Honorable Mention.
Audra Franley, also a senior at JAHS, attended the conference for the first time and represented the New York Times in the Press Corps. Her preparation was unique from any other delegates who attended.
“I printed out a synopsis for the topics of every council to get a feel of what I would be reporting on. I then read over the history of the New York Times and articles to better understand their writing style,” Franley said.
In total, four delegations from JAHS received awards exemplifying that hard work truly does pay off.
The students really enjoyed touring the city of Chicago.
Franley explained her favorite memory from the trip was visiting the Willis Tower, the former Sears Tower. “I liked being able to see all of Chicago. The glass window that branched out from the building was also really cool because we were able to stand on it and look down at the city below our feet,” she said. March agreed that standing 106 stories high in the Willis Tower was her favorite part of the trip as well. In addition, the group was able to shop on State Street, visit the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, witness the Crown Fountain, taste some authentic Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza and visit the Rainforest and Hard Rock Cafés.
Although exploring the city was a blast, the true fulfillment rooted from the conference and debate. Students were able to distinguish and utilize their skills for a great cause.
March explained why she valued this experience most. “It has helped me build friendships that I may never have established. It made me much more aware of different issues around the world. It taught me to respect all cultures and all ideas,” she said.
Franley agreed that it has made her much more aware of worldly issues and claimed. She said, “It has improved my speaking and writing skills, and has made me understand the importance of deadlines.”
The long and exhausting week that the team spent together in Chicago fostered a close bond that each student would be able to forever take with them. MUNUC was a rewarding experience for advisers and students alike.
“It’s rewarding to see how much hard work and effort that our group puts forth,” said Ms. Hamper. “When students win an award it is like that ‘aha’ moment. Just amazing!”