Jessica Good and her classmates from Westwood High School had a lot on their agendas. “Right now, I’m trying to write a resolution that would monitor the conduct of peacekeepers but maintain the sovereignty of the nations they are in, during civil war,” said Good, 17.
“Some of the countries don’t want the peacekeepers to interfere.”
Nearby, other teens at the Mesa school were tackling issues from nuclear proliferation to sex trafficking — all before dinnertime.
Last weekend, some 30 Westwood students joined more than 100 East Valley students at Mesa Community College for the annual Model United Nations conference.
Model U.N. is an student organization that allows students to simulate committees of the United Nations by taking on the roles of delegates from assigned countries and working together to create resolutions. Students must realistically portray their country’s stance on current topics as the delegates debate actual issues discussed by the United Nations, said Gregg Good, a Westwood teacher and the club’s adviser.
Westwood senior Sydney Brake, for example, represented Qatar and tried to convince other countries to join in a nonproliferation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Meanwhile, her classmate Israel Alvarez represented Ukraine as he re-examined the role of U.N. peacekeepers.
“One of the main reasons I did this is to be aware of the world, to know what the programs are in the Middle East and in Africa, knowing what’s outside of Mesa, Arizona.” Alvarez said.
The Westwood students also take an evening international relations class at Mesa Community College, which means they are allowed to attend a college-level, Model United Nations conference in San Francisco each year.
“It’s kind of a loosely guarded secret. The college students there don’t know they’re high school kids, so they treat them as peers, and the kids rise to the challenge,” said Brad Dille, who teaches political science at MCC. He recalled a high school junior giving a lecture on international economics to a graduate student from the University of California-Berkeley at a recent convention.
The student delegates, who must learn proper U.N. parliamentary procedure, are judged on how realistic their portrayals are.
For example, delegates from the United States and Iran shouldn’t sit together and chat, Good said.
“It’s intensive academic research, but it’s different from Academic Decathlon or speech and debate, which many of these students also participate in. It’s not the sort of ‘crush, kill, destroy your opponent’ mentality. ... You have to garner consensus,” Gregg Good said. “It’s about convincing others’ countries that what you want is also good for them, and it’s an outstanding intellectual experience for kids.”
Some Westwood students will get to put their international skills to the test when they fly to Ireland on March 31 to attend a Model United Nations conference there. Most of the trip is funded by tax credits.
“We see things a certain way living in the U.S.,” said Brake, who went to a conference last year in England.
“The people I met brought me a new perspective. You can’t really have the same experience if you don’t go outside the country.”