CARLSBAD — Students from Carlsbad’s Pacific Ridge School made quite an impression at the 2012 University of Michigan Model United Nations Conference last month. While all did an outstanding job representing their school, three classmates took home delegate awards for their accomplishments.A total of 15 students from Pacific Ridge School joined 550 other students from across the nation, taking on delegate roles in a prestigious academic event. Judges from the conference lauded Trevor Nesbitt, Hena Mustafa, and Elle Lichter for their exceptional work.“Model United Nations is a debate and simulation activity which allows students to learn about world issues while improving public speaking, negotiation and research skills,” said Scott Silk, history teacher at Pacific Ridge School and faculty advisor for the Michigan Model U.N. Conference. “Students take the role of a specific country and participate within a single committee modeled after real-world bodies, such as the Special Political Committee or World Health Organization; each committee chooses one or more topics and students research and prepare their country’s position prior to the conference.”
On average, the time to prepare for the delegation is about 10 hours. Students need to delve into their United Nations committee, and understand their country and its international issues, while balancing their knowledge on historical data and current affair headlines.
When students arrive to the conference, Silk said, delegates act as representatives of their nation, attempting to pass United Nations resolutions through debate and negotiation with fellow students.
Senior classman Trevor Nesbitt won Best Delegate Award for the Group of 8 Committee, which focused on the global economic landscape, including the economic debt crisis.
“The reason I got my award was that I was the most diplomatic representative of my country and represented my position quite well,” he said. “I got an appreciation for how complicated the global economic issues are and I know we just barely touched the surface.”
Hena Mustafa, a junior at Pacific Ridge School, was honored with a Best Delegate Award for the Joint Committee on Israel and Palestine. She dealt heavily with negotiations in these high-conflict areas.
“I learned no matter how violent people get, it never really works, and it ends up in more conflict,” she said, noting how happy and grateful she was to receive the award.
Although this was the first time the school attended the University of Michigan Model United Nations Conference, it has taken part in other conferences in locations such as the University of Chicago and Stanford University. In fact, it made its mark as the “Best Small School Delegation” at the 2011 Stanford Model United Nations Conference.
Model U.N. is one of the extracurricular activities offered at the Pacific Ridge campus.
Dr. Bob Ogle, co-head of school, calls the program a fantastic one. “I think in the end, Model U.N. is a perfect outgrowth from the mission of the school,” he said. “The growth of the Model U.N. program and its success has mirrored much in the way of the growth and success of our school.”
Ogle said to send off their juniors and seniors to other parts of the country to spend time on a university campus, and to do as well as they did at these conferences underscores their school mission.
Silk agrees with Ogle, describing Model U.N. as a perfect fit for their school. “Students build academic skills including research, writing, public speaking, active listening, collaboration, and negotiation,” he said. The other part of the delegate equation is pondering ethical questions and understanding international issues. Silk said that students in the program even have the opportunity to explore possible meaningful career options.
Receiving an award at these types of conferences is a significant achievement. Judges look for intellectual precision.
“Awards are given to delegates who are knowledgeable about the topics, accurately represent their country’s position, speak eloquently, think creatively about solutions and work collaboratively with other delegates to reach consensus and pass resolutions,” Silk said.