High schoolers gain global perspectives through Model UN conference

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – Hundreds of local high school students have gathered together on the UB North Campus to help come up with solutions to real-world problems through this year’s Model United Nations conference.

In all, the students have come from more than two dozen Western New York schools to represent nearly 50 different countries in this program.

Each student chose the country his or her team represents, and each one has done extensive research to prepare for the full day of preparing resolutions, negotiating, debating, creating alliances and resolving conflicts, all following the procedures of the actual UN General Assembly.

“It’s very interesting,” added Lake Shore Central High School sophomore John Rivera. “It’s fun, and it voices your opinions, too.”

The students themselves drafted resolutions up for consideration and amendment, covering a wide range of topics from “Women’s Rights in the Middle East” to “Diversifying One Crop Economies”.

MORE | Click here to learn more about the resolutions the students are debating.

“We have to analyze them, see what we want to add to them, see if there’s any more specifics we can add to them, and we create amendments. And it’s a lot of research that goes into it,” explained Williamsville East High School senior Puja Sasankan.

Much of the research for the students is intended to ensure they truly understand the views and values of the countries they represent, to be able to best act in those countries’ interests in this forum. Model UN delegates who have taken part year after year told News 4 it can sometimes be tough to set aside their own opinions and experience to represent a different country and its values in the debates.

“One time we were Saudi Arabia and talking about human rights. It was a little difficult,” recalled Williamsville East High School senior Sarina Divan.

“It’s hard being China when you’re from America because the view points are so different,” agreed another Williamsville East senior, Morgan Awner. “So you definitely have to involve yourself in a different political realm than you’re usually used to.”

The students say the challenge of adopting another country’s views for the purposes of the conference is what makes the experience so valuable. “You get a whole new perspective, a whole new view on the issues,” said Aniruddha Nrusimha, a Williamsville East senior representing China for this Model UN conference.

By bringing the different perspectives together – both from the research the students did beforehand and through meeting some of the international exchange students taking part – all of the representatives are able to hone their skills for public speaking and conflict resolution, while becoming more informed and more engaged global citizens.

“I think it’s really interesting seeing how different people live, and I think it’s important to get out of the American political system and see that we’re all one world and we’re all doing similar things and working for similar goals,” Awner told News 4.

“Sometimes they amaze me,” said May Shogan, Director of the International Exchanges and Global Education Department at the International Institute of Buffalo, which is hosting the Model United Nations General Assembly here.

“They have solutions that we adults need to hear and learn from, and this gives them the opportunity to speak up and learn from each other,” Shogan said.

This is the tenth year the International Institute of Buffalo has hosted the Model U.N. conference here.


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