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Global-Minded Middle School Students Convene for Model UN Conference

Students from all four CHCCS middle schools gathered at Smith Middle School (SMS) and the Carolina Center for Educational Excellence (CCEE) on Friday, April 5, for the 10th annual Model UN Conference. Over the course of six hours, student delegates worked in committees to discuss policy decisions and solutions to challenges in Yemen and with cybersecurity. The day began with an opening ceremony in the auditorium and ended with awards presentations, but the majority of the day was devoted to sharing and debating those global issues.

Model UN is an international educational organization that promotes global citizenship by offering programs for students to develop and sharpen skills in negotiation, diplomacy and public speaking. “It was a great day of learning and collaboration for our middle school students,” said Dr. Christy Stanley, Director of Humanities and Healthful Living. This year’s group of 120 student delegates was the largest ever, and the organizers added a fifth committee to the usual four.

Stanley serves as overall director of the event, yet she said the work and preparation are divided among trained district staff (primarily middle school social studies and AIG teachers) and high school Model UN students, so that her main tasks are to “secure the event space, share communications and order pizza for lunch.” The format clearly succeeds, because the day went off without a hitch.

Model UN Indonesia Erin Kellas, social studies teacher at SMS, said, “There are so many great aspects of our CHCCS middle school Model UN Conference. Students are discussing real world current global issues in a professional simulation. On the day of the conference, it is completely student-led, from the high school Secretary Generals and Committee Chairs to the middle school participants. That gives a great sense of ownership for students from sixth grade to twelfth grade. They are all working together to practice the art of compromise.  A successful resolution can only happen when countries are willing to work together...a skill we need to see more of in this world. From critical thinking to on-the-spot-debates to problem solving to writing and presenting resolutions, this conference provides a platform for students to apply their skills.”

Seema Anand, Gifted Education Specialist at Culbreth Middle School, said, “This was my first time attending the conference and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a unique experience that inculcates leadership, critical thinking, public speaking, compromise, writing, research, and negotiation abilities in students.”

One of the essential elements of the Model UN Conference at the middle school level is the supervision and guidance from a team of high school “staffers” and two high school secretaries-general. This year the secretaries-general were Chapel Hill High School seniors Bryan Yam, who will be attending Duke University next fall, and Robin Huang, bound for Georgetown University.

Model UN confab Huang said, “I have been in Model UN since sixth grade, and I must say it has played an immense formative role in my life and is a major reason why I am interested in pursuing a career in international relations. In fact, I will be attending Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in the fall majoring in international politics. Model UN has been influential in teaching me important international current events and skills of public speaking and debate. As secretary-general of the middle school conference, it was so heartening to see the program host more than 120 students this year -- the most the middle school program has ever hosted. I am so optimistic for the future of Model UN in CHCCS and how it will shape today's students into tomorrow's leaders.”

Penny Martin, gifted education specialist at MMS, said, “Our students did a great job during the competition and were recognized and rewarded for their hard work. They were able to digest a lot of information in a short time period. Posing as UN delegates to countries they may or may not have been familiar with, and discuss topics that are current and relevant, helped open their eyes to the global platform. It was a joy to watch and hear them perform during the competition!  We are extremely proud of their hard work accomplishments!”

NC Representative Graig Meyer stopped by the Model UN Conference to offer a few tips to the participants. “I love helping students learn about civic engagement, and these Mustangs asked better questions and had better ideas than some of my colleagues!"

Rep. Meyer at Model UN

Congratulations to the award winners and all of the students who participated!