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Model UN Club gears up at Roaring Fork High School

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Heading to NYC

By Debbie Bruell

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Sopris Sun Correspondent

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A total of eighteen Roaring Fork High School students will be heading to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City this March. Their mission: to work toward solutions to global issues such as the Ebola outbreak, the rights of indigenous people and the globalization of labor, as they join over 2,000 other students from around the country and the world to engage in a four-day simulation of the United Nations.

The RFHS Model UN Club has been assigned the country of Cambodia. Each student will represent Cambodia on one of the Model UN committees, such as The World Bank, Disarmament, and International Security Committee, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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In preparation for the conference, the students have been conducting extensive research on Cambodia and international issues, reviewing UN resolutions, learning about the history of the UN and international diplomacy, writing Cambodian position papers and honing their public speaking skills.

Sophomore Tavia Teitler told The Sopris Sun why she joined the club: “I tend to believe that all the problems in the world could and should be solved by talking about them rather than fighting and killing each other, so I figured it would be good for me to learn more about diplomacy and what role I could potentially have in helping to solve world problems.”

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Joselinne Medrano, junior, said that what she is most excited about is “not sleeping.” She explained that Model UN simulates the real UN experience to such an extent that occasionally issues arise and emergency meetings need to be called for certain committees in the middle of the night.

Several of the students spoke about how interesting it has been to learn about a country so different from their own. “Only about 15 percent of all Cambodian households have electricity,” noted Tavia.

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“There are lots of laws in Cambodia that are supposed to protect women from oppression and abuse, but they’re not being implemented,” junior Naomi Pulver told The Sun.

“There’s lot of depressing information, but there’s also information that’s inspiring to read about,” said junior Fiona Laird. “There are all these problems in the world, but there are also people out there solving lots them — like maternal health is improving.”

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While individual and group awards are announced at the end of the conference, the RFHS students appreciate that the emphasis of the conference is on collaboration and teamwork. The overall goal is for each committee to work together to create a resolution.

Roaring Fork High School teachers Matt Wells and Matt Whisler started the Model UN Club this year. Both teachers come to the RFHS club with years of Model UN experience. Wells headed up the Aspen High School Model UN Club for eight years and took students to the Central America Model UN conference when he was a teacher in Honduras.

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According to Wells, the Model UN experience deepens kids’ understanding of global issues; provides them with a unique opportunity to interact with bright, interesting kids from around the world; and develops kids’ public speaking skills. “These students will be speaking formally in front of groups ranging from 25 to 200 other students, and they’ll be participating in intense negotiations with small groups of students that they’ve never met before,” Wells said.

“I thought it would just be us (the RFHS club) discussing these issues—I didn’t expect to be a part of something so big!” junior Jasmin Tellez said.

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“More than anything else,” Wells said, “the experience is confidence-building.”

While teachers help the students prepare for the conference, the conference itself is run entirely by students — college students organize and manage the entire conference for the high school student participants.

Hundreds of Model UN conferences are held around the world. The RFHS students will be attending the National High School Model UN conference, currently in its 41st year and the only conference held in the actual UN Headquarters in New York City.

The club has been fund-raising throughout the year to help defer the cost of the conference and to make the experience possible for all interested students. There are no requirements to join the club aside from a passion for international affairs and a commitment to prepare for the conference.

Next Steps:

RFHS Model United Nations Presentation/Fundraiser

Feb. 21, 5 to 7 p.m. in the Calaway Room at the Third Street Center. This event

will include food and a presentation by the Model UN students about the club

and upcoming conference. For details, call Matt Wells at 384-5777.

The four purposes of the United Nations:

  • To keep peace throughout the world;

  • To develop friendly relations among nations;

  • To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms;

  • To be a center for harmonizing the actions

of nations to achieve these goals.