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The Press Newspaper

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Could Clay students ‘bring peace to the Middle East?’

The idea of a Model United Nations competition may bring about images of participants screaming at each from across the room, but for Clay High School’s team, their motto, “Don’t raise your voice, just strengthen your argument,” tells a different story.

“One of the things that we focus on is teaching them how to find evidence to back up what they’re trying to persuade people to do,” said Erin Weiker, the team’s advisor.

Model U.N. at Clay is still a relatively young program. It started out as an after school club, but three years ago became a full class available to sophomores through seniors. The program has been slowly growing ever since and Weiker hopes that some upcoming changes will help make it even more popular. These changes include adding elements available to freshmen students and allowing the older participants the opportunity to get college credit for their efforts.

ModelUN
Clay Model UN Team picture after first place team win at Ohio Northern University.

“The current students will be taught the curriculum of an advanced placement comparative politics course,” said Weiker. “They’ll have the option of getting college credit if they take the test in May.”

Getting kids interested in the program isn’t simply about making them aware that it exists, but informing potentially interested kids of what Model U.N. actually involves. Doing so isn’t always easy, however.

“I’ve had people think we were actually a modeling class,” said Weiker.

Model U.N. competitions involve simulations of real world events where teams are tasked with representing a particular nation. They are scored by a committee and are awarded for their ability to sensibly negotiate and bring about compromises, as well as their ability to convince others through writing and speech.

“It really improves your speaking skills,” said Dalton Dudley, who’s representation of Bulgaria won him first place at a recent competition. “It’s great for shy kids.”

Model U.N. also puts participants in a position to debate with those that they fundamentally disagree with. And for students like Katie Emch, these moments can be great opportunities to see issues from all perspectives.

“There are people in this class that (don’t agree with me politically),” she said. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to instantly hate them because our beliefs aren’t the same. It’ll just make it much more interesting when we do end up debating.”

Despite being relative newcomers to the Model U.N. world, Clay’s team has been enjoying great success in competitions this year.

The Clay Model U.N. Team may not bring peace to the Middle East, but Principal Jim Jurski says in his Tradition-Family-Community column for the staff newsletter that the team is setting a standard.

“Our Model U.N. team is quickly building a reputation as one of the best teams in the area after the impressive display at competition last weekend,” Jurski wrote. “The team earned first place and received several compliments on their presentations. Keep up the good work.”

The Clay team is looking toward the biggest competition of the year in the spring.

For the competition, the students have to put together resolutions for four major topics and will represent Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Portugal. It says a lot about those involved to discover that the class will be over at that point. The students have to do the work on their own time and won’t be receiving course credit.

“It’s a class of passion,” said Andrew Sterling, a member of the current Model U.N. class. “It’s not like a math class or a science class where you get some kids who like it and some kids who don’t, we all specifically signed up for this class because we love it.”

For those who love Model U.N., like LeAnn Winslow, the benefits far outweigh the work.

“It’s definitely changed my point of view and what I want to do when I get older,” she said. “I used to want to be an accountant, but now I’ve been really thinking about getting into international politics.”

And while the skills gained from competing aren’t just important for those interested in politics professionally, it’s hard not to see how that could be a next step for some of those passionate enough to pursue such a lofty goal.

“(Model U.N. members) could be future world leaders you meet while in high school,” said Winslow. 

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