Park City High School students learn to negotiate in Model United Nations Club
Coordinating on school projects can be a pain for students, but discussing solutions to combat cyber-terrorism in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain is a whole other story.
Students at Park City High School are learning the ins and outs of foreign policy in the Model United Nations Club. Last month, the club walked away with eight awards at the BYU Model United Nations competition, a major jump from last year’s two awards.
Park City students were awarded best position papers for four different assemblies: General Assembly Plenary, Eli Levine and Tristan Croise; Second General Assembly, Megan Guetschow and Nick Burnz; World Health Organization, Adam Hickey and Bryce Ling; and All Spanish OAS Council, Jake Landcaster. Two student teams placed first in the peer award and two teams placed in the top three overall.
In the Model U.N. Club, students work for months selecting a country, making bids for their choice, researching an issue and writing a proposition paper. They then prepare to explain and negotiate with other “countries,” represented by 120 high school students from around the state, said Eli Levine, senior and president of the club.
“We get to learn a lot about global politics, so it’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a really good learning opportunity.”
Students pair up to represent a “delegation,” then meet in an assembly council. The students discuss solutions to issues such as human trafficking, terrorism and poverty. Motions are made, resolutions pass or fail, but students are ultimately judged on their negotiation skills.
“You’re not competing against you peers, but you get rated on how well you work together,” Levine said.
Bretta Strangeland, a sophomore, said the competition was a valuable experience because of that.
“It teaches you how to work with other people,” she said. “It’s a lot similar to debate, where you have to share your ideas and speak in front of people, but instead of being counter to other people, you are working for a solution.”
Aside from researching countries and issues the students previously knew nothing about, students also have to study countries’ cultures and values. Jake Landcaster, a sophomore, represented Cuba in the All Spanish OAS Council during the competition and said it was a bit of a challenge. To represent the country accurately, he studied Cuba’s foreign policy history and acted accordingly – all in Spanish.
“You’re not arguing from your perspective,” he said. “You’re arguing from the perspective of what your country would do.”
Tristan Croise, a senior, agreed that it was a little difficult at times, but also fun.
“You have to stay in line with the beliefs of your country that are put forth by your government,” he said. “You have to make choices based on that. When signing for certain bills, you have to do it according to what the country would do based on the current system of government.”
He represented Lao People’s Democratic Republic with Levine. The two won first place for their position paper and the peer award, which is given by fellow students at the event. They also won third place overall.
The other peer award was Nick Gardener in the Women’s Council. Adam Hickey and Bryce Ling won second place overall in the World Health Organization assembly.
Levine, who was a member of the club last year, said one of the biggest takeaways for him was how difficult it can be to find solutions to global issues. But, he said, it forced him to be creative. Last year, one of his solutions to reduce religious conflict between various sects was to create a youth soccer league so they could “foster a new culture.”
This year, the ability to negotiate helped him and Croise walk away with a few honors, but the invaluable experience is what all the students appreciated the most.
“So many cultures, countries and forms of government have very conflicting view points. Trying to understand those and work around them is what made the experience incredible,” Croise said. “I can say with confidence that this event was an academic highlight of my senior year.”
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A district spokesperson said six students were removed from an area in the school as police conducted a search.