Brockway Students Attend Model UN

BROCKWAY, Pa.(EYT) – Despite its small size, Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School’s reputation at Model UN gave it a chance to represent countries with some serious clout.

(PICTURED ABOVE: Brockway Model UN students at dinner.)

Model UN is an event where high school students from across the region gather at the University of Pittsburgh and attempt to grapple with real-world issues by role-playing as various countries in the real United Nations. Brockway participates in the regional event that takes place in the University of Pittsburgh Student Union. Many of the schools were from the Pittsburgh area.

For 2019, Brockway’s nine students had to divide their time between representing China and North Korea.

“Each student, representing either China or North Korea, had to become an expert on global issues ranging from the environment, national security, water, sanitation, and more,” Brockway history teacher Shawn Smith said.

The importance of China on the world stage, even a role-playing one, gave the Brockway students a chance to sink their teeth into researching very serious issues.

Left to right: Mariah Alanskas, Miranda Mancini, Chanell Britten, Lily Sisko, Phil Shifter, Ethan Buttery, Nathan Bennett, Shaughny Richardson, and Sarah Trunzo. Photo by Shawn Smith.

“Even though we were a small group, we got North Korea and China,” Brockway senior Shaughny Richardson said. “From what it looked like, the larger schools had five countries. I was assigned China’s environmental program. They give you two topics that your committee would focus on.”

Richardson and her teammates had to research the country and its policies in order to realistically represent the country on the Model UN. Brockway participates in the regional event that takes place in the University of Pittsburgh Student Union. Many of the schools were from the Pittsburgh area.

University of Pittsburgh students acted as chairs for each committee, making sure things ran smoothly. Students had to act as UN representatives, debating topics and presenting resolutions.

“The chairs lead the whole thing,” Richardson said. “For the most part, we tried to stay focused on our topics. We have a goal that we want to accomplish for our own country. It was pretty professional in that sense.”

There was also a guest speaker, a U.S. Army colonel, who explained the importance of globalization and communicating with other countries. Communication was an important aspect of the Model UN experience.

“I talked to the kids next to me and made friends,” junior Miranda Mancini said. “We got to know each other, and I had to explain where Brockway was! They were all schools from Pittsburgh, so they didn’t know where we were located.”

Senior Phil Shifter started the day at 9:00 a.m. in his subcommittees, which focused on the criminal accountability of UN officials and the effect of armed conflict on treaties. He said they debated those issues for hours.

“After lunch, we all got silly,” Shifter said. “We’re trying to pass anything we could. We passed a resolution that Wingdings should be the only written language in the world! We made a distinction between written and spoken. You can speak what you want, just write it in Wingdings. It makes sense when you think about writing treaties in Wingdings. Everyone is forced to try to understand it.”

While that solution may seem absurd, it highlighted the focus on creativity within Model UN.

“Everyone had a very diverse cultural sense,” Mancini said. “Even though we were from the US, we were trying to think outside our demographic and work within the mindset of the country we were supposed to be.”

“What surprised me this year was the dedication of the people in the group for solving the world’s problems,” Richardson concluded. “There were 51 students in our committee, and having them all come up with different ideas and talk about the environment was inspiration. It definitely gave me hope for the future.”

Smith concluded that the Model UN is a great opportunity for the students to learn how to be leaders when they grow up and leave Brockway.

“Model UN is such a cool immersive experience for our students,” Smith explained. “It really forces them to conduct good research, be versed in current global issues, and to work cooperatively with students from other schools. I think that all of those skills are important for our future innovators and leaders.”

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