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Monfredo: Model UN Club Shows These Activities are Necessary in Our Schools

Saturday, December 29, 2018

 

Model UN Photo

Just before the holiday break the Worcester Public Schools Model UN Clubs held its second “Future Leaders Conference” at Clark University.  Seven secondary schools and their Club directors participated … Burncoat Middle School, Justine Thanas;  Burncoat High, Scott Freniere;  Doherty High, Patricia Peters;  Worcester Technical,  Justin Newton; Sullivan Middle, Dave Crompton; South High, Brian Cormier; and Worcester East Middle, Dan Makela.

After viewing the success of Model UN for several years at the Goddard Academy- Sullivan Middle School I filed an item on the School Committee agenda two years ago to add more schools to this outstanding program in our secondary schools.  Superintendent Maureen Binienda, a strong advocate for the program agreed to expanding it.  Colleen Kelly, History and Social Science liaison over-sees this city-wide program and has been able to move it forward.

Here’s a little background on the club… Model UN is an extra curriculum activity done by young people all over the world and is extremely popular and competitive from colleges to secondary schools.  The Club challenges students to study ways of making our world a better place.  Students must present speeches to their peers, incorporate the ideas of others into extemporaneous remarks, develop and write proposals, work on developing a consensus within various groups and use parliamentary procedure.

The Clubs are affiliated with the United Nations Association of Greater Boston (UNAGB) program.  Information is sent by the organization to the clubs directors as a guide for teaching.  The organization is dedicated to building a strong network of global citizens who will be engaged in critical global issues central to the work and mission of the United Nations.  According to Ms. Kelly the goal of the program is to provide students with the opportunity to engage in research and write position papers that support the values of the country they are representing. There is authentic student directed learning, public speaking, collaboration and compromise.

At the conference guided by the UNAGB Director Caitian Moore and their School Club directors, the students were divided into two groups, Middle School and High School.  The groups discussed the world-wide issue of clean water and the global response to this need.  After the conference, Director Moore stated, “The student’s impressed us at the conference with their knowledge of the topic, willingness to take academic risks, and creative solutions.  It was exciting to see the conference grow…congratulations again to the students.”

The students did extremely well passing many resolutions in both rooms as they collaborated with one another as they would at a UN conference and considered all sorts of solutions to the current world wide problem.  After the conference certificates were given for the Best Position Paper Awards, The Best Negotiator Award, The Best Public Speaker Award, and the Best Delegate Awards. Keep in mind that these are students learning about a world health crisis and being able to comprehend what needs to be done to assist others.  The students were enthusiastic and not afraid to articulate their thoughts.

Student Sokol Hoxha from Doherty High offered the following, “The model UN conference was a wonderful experience for I enjoyed being able to have a meaningful dialogue with the other delegates and be able to see different viewpoints.  The resolution-making-process was especially interesting. We had to be able to think critically about the topic and try to think about the effects any resolutions could have on the issue and make edits as necessary… I’m glad that I was part of such a wonderful event.”

As one can see, education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It's about widening the student’s knowledge and being able to learn about issues that affect people in this global world. It is for this reason school districts need to expand opportunities for our children to participate in such events like the Model UN.  These clubs provide opportunities for our students to participate in activities, interact with their peers in a supervised setting and form relationships with adults.  Some clubs focus on a specific area, thus allowing members to develop their skills and interest in a certain locale.

To make that point, Genna Goggins, a junior at South High has been involved in Model UN since the 7th grade. When I asked her what was special about this club she responded by saying, “It has shaped my way of viewing the world and helping people.  Model UN has even assisted in shaping my future goals.  I have always wanted to go into medicine, but Model UN has made it so that I want to provide medical assistance to children all over the world who cannot get the help they need on their own.”  In addition, Genna has started a UNICEF club at South High and has branched out to Doherty and Holy Name to start one there as well.  The goal is to raise awareness and funds for children in need.   Genna is also starting a tutoring program with one of the elementary schools in the South High area.   This has all started by her involvement in Model UN.

The lesson here is that one doesn’t know the impact that a well developed after school club could have on a student.  We need to expand these opportunities for our students. Administrators, of course, will say that the first stubbing block is the funding. They are right but I would encourage districts to look for cooperate funding, engage business leaders in the discussion and more importantly set aside funds from their budget to support these clubs.  Remember, if we can develop within each student a passion for learning it will last a lifetime.  As the late singer Whitney Houston sang, “I believe that children are our future.  Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

 

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