Each year, top high school students with a passion for international affairs have the opportunity to join the Model United Nations elective led by History teachers Emmie Yaeger and John Devaney. After spending the majority of the year studying world issues, practicing debate, and writing research papers and resolutions, the rigorous elective culminates in the National High School Model United Nations Conference (NHSMUN) in New York City. There, student-delegates spend 4 days with hundreds of other students from around the world doing research and engaging in thought-provoking debate about both historical and contemporary issues, heightening their problem-solving and diplomatic skills.
Prior to the conference, students are assigned to a country and a United Nations Committee. During the conference, student-delegates participate in five three-plus hour mock sessions with committee members from other schools. Using formal United Nations protocol, they “motion” to present their perspective on and solutions to the major world issue at hand from the point of view of the country they represent. Each committee is moderated by a panel of college students. A particularly interesting aspect of the conference is the ability to visit with real professional UN diplomats from the country the school represents.
Students from the Waldorf School of Garden City are chosen by their advisors to participate in either a larger main committee or a smaller specialized committee—such as the Historical Security Council (HSC) or International Court of Justice (ICJ). Delegates in all committees grapple with world issues focusing on a variety of topics ranging from prison reform to food insecurity to peacekeeping. This year, the Waldorf School represented Iran.
Experienced students who demonstrate strong research and debate skills are often selected to participate in a single-delegate specialized committee. This year, Jovawn McNeil ‘19, acted as the as Aviation Minister for India in the Historical Crisis Committee where the topic was Indira Gandhai’s Cabinet. Meanwhile, Ali Fraim ‘19 was a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) representing Denmark debating the Feasibility of Nuclear Energy in Developing Countries, and Sydney Bossuk ’19 was the Minister of Transport and Roads in the Crisis Committee, where the group was awakened in the middle of the night for an emergency session to address a coup in South Sudan. Small specialized committees provide students an increased opportunity to lead as they engage in fact-based simulations advocating for their country’s policy through impromptu and prepared speeches, and by engaging in role-play allowing a deeper understanding of complex situations.
Dylan Kliers ’19, a member of the ICJ had the unique opportunity to address the entire assembly on the floor of the United Nations during the closing ceremony. He discussed the self-determination of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in Western Sahara. “It was a very exciting experience,” said Dylan. “It was such a surprise to me that I didn’t even have time to be nervous….It was definitely a highlight of the trip!”
Five of the seniors who attended this year’s NHSMUN conference are veterans who just completed their 4th and final year. They all agree that it was a challenging high point to their high school experience and the skills built in the Waldorf classroom enabled them to think critically and on the fly, coming up with creative solutions. “As an American history fan, I was drawn to Model UN to broaden my horizons. It definitely sparked in me a greater understanding of world issues,” said Senior Sydney Bossuk. “It not only pushed me to think about more universal issues it also gave me hope and made me realize that we are the global leaders of the future and that it is possible to effect positive change.”
While other high schools may participate in Model UN, the Waldorf School of Garden City’s proximity to NYC gives students the opportunity to attend this major conference–the largest in the world–and visit the United Nations each year. Read more about what the Waldorf School of Garden City offers here.