CHAMPLAIN — At Beekmantown Central School, Steven Cech is a student; at the North Country Model United Nations, he’s a delegate debating the disarming of nuclear-weapons programs.
“I spent, like, a month and a half preparing,” he said of this year’s conference, where he represented the United Kingdom.
The three-day event, which ends today, is hosted at Northeastern Clinton Central School and includes participants from 16 schools in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, as well as Vermont.
“It lets some of the brightest kids in our area come together and talk about things that they would never talk about at their home school,” said Rod Driscoll, adviser to AuSable Valley Central School’s Model U.N. Club, which sent three students to the gathering.
The conference was founded by and is organized by NCCS, with its Model U.N. students choosing and researching the topics to be discussed, moderating the event and preparing study guides for attendees.
Before arriving, visiting students are assigned a country to represent, committee to take part in and topics to debate.
For example, Elisabeth Palmieri, a student at Rice Memorial High School in Burlington, was named to the conference’s Legal Council, where she represented Iceland in a debate on international drug laws.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming, but it’s still a lot of fun,” she said.
Other conference topics include Syrian refugees, space colonization and health standards of Guantanamo Bay Prison. In addition, students in the International Court of Justice were addressing the issue of the United States versus Russia in the matter of Edward Snowden.
The co-secretaries general of the event, seniors Mathew Orr and Justin Trombly, decided to give this year’s gathering something it has not had in the recent past — a theme.
“They wanted it to be centered on this concept of revolution,” said NCCS U.N. Club adviser Jason Borrie.
That includes multiple interpretations of the word, he noted, including people fighting for change, as well as the introduction of new and innovative concepts.
“Each committee has two topics that all the delegates arriving know in advance ... and this year, as a revolutionary measure, we thought we would try to throw a curve ball at these committees, so we’re going to introduce something that they did not prepare for and see how they think on their feet,” said Borrie, an NCCS alum who participated in the program himself as a student.
‘CAN’T WORK ALONE’
The event, Driscoll noted, teaches students the art of working together to find solutions to the world’s problems and exposes them to new and different ideas.
“The way this is structured is great because one kid can’t do anything,” he said. “They have to work with others, and they have to form coalitions.”
“It allows them to get to know people outside of their own personal community,” added Willsboro Central School Model U.N. adviser Keith Stone, who brought nine students to the conference.
In addition, participants gain experience speaking up and being heard in a large group of people, which, Cech noted, “helps them become more well-rounded.”
“I’m a little bit more on the shy side, so doing this really gives you the experience to go up in front of people,” said NCCS eighth-grader Rylee Pinsonneault, who represented Fiji in the debate on electronic-waste disposal.
When the program began 37 years ago, Borrie noted, it was not only an opportunity for participants to simulate the United Nations and gain life skills but also for teachers, students and volunteers from multiple districts to come together as a community.
“We’re very proud of that, and that still continues to be the tradition,” he said.
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