Waterford students take on global issues

Waterford students take on global issues

Jan. 18—WATERFORD — About 40 students from a high school club traveled Thursday to Yale University’s Model United Nations conference.

The 50th annual conference organized by Yale offers students the chance to discuss global issues with nearly 2,000 other Model UN students from around the world.

Seniors Jay Zimmermann, Suhana Sharma, Maple Siu and Alistair Haglund spoke Wednesday about the unique opportunity the Yale conference provides for the Waterford Model United Nations Club.

As of Wednesday, Haglund said the Yale conference is a lot of fun because it allows the students the opportunity to leave school and meet kids from all over the world.

“And I think that’s why everyone looks forward to YMUN so much, because we get to meet a lot of new, interesting and cool people while doing something we enjoy,” he added.

Suhana, added that students who attend the conference always walk away with new friends.

“If you speak to like, any delegate who went to Yale last year, they can probably tell you like one or two people who they’ve stayed in contact with or were really close to the conference,” she said.

Siu said the Yale conference also reinforces the camaraderie the members already feel as a small school participating a big conference.

Ian Cheney, the club’s adviser and a teacher of government and history at the high school, agreed with Siu, adding that most of the schools participating at the Yale conference are private schools. Waterford often competing against schools that have Model UN classes, not clubs, which offer students far more experience.

“I think we hold our own. Last year we took home three awards, it was our highest number ever. And so there’s a lot of sense of pride that comes with going in together,” he said.

This will be Cheney’s 12th time attending the conference adding he’s never had “more prepared and hardworking officers” as he does now.

The club meets once a week and discusses current events or world issues such as human trafficking and ethnic cleansing.

Zimmermann, Sharma, Siu and Haglund, prepare a summary of the topic the students need to research and how the real United Nations has treated the issue. At one meeting each month, each student takes on the role of a country or party involved in an issue and discuss it from their standpoint.

Cheney said club members don’t get to choose what country they’re assigned to represent at the conference, so they may have to argue for something they personally don’t believe in.

The club trains members in the skills of diplomacy and negotiation, Haglund said, so they can compromise and come up with solutions.

“And then for me it’s just, you get to learn about the UN. Because this is modeled after the real UN. So we get to learn about what types of issues they’re looking at, what their procedures are, how things actually work in the real world,” Siu said.

Haglund said one of the biggest things students gain through the club is experience in public speaking. Other ambassadors agreed, explaining that the club provides a comfortable environment where students support each while practicing what can be an intimidating skill.

“I would say our Model UN is a safe space, because even if you’re not the greatest at public speaking you could get up and speak and it’s okay if you mess up or don’t say things correctly,” he said. “You just aren’t very nervous because it’s a great place to practice.”


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