High school students experience the machinations of politics
By Darren Lum
Dressed in formal clothing, high school students did their best impressions of international delegates debating and conferring about political issues at the Model United Nations symposium on Thursday, May 16 at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
Close to 60 students from four schools in Trillium Lakelands District School Board represented countries from around the world, working to pass a resolution paper or two on subtopics of climate change regarding green energy, legislation and economic impact.
HHSS Grade 12 leadership student Dustyn McCready-DeBruin thought the Trillium United Nations Assembly, or TUNA, event was a success.
“I think the event went really well for its first time, it ran really smoothly. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and we came up with some really good resolutions for issues that come with climate change.
“For next year it would be great to have some more schools attend and in the years to come, it would be great if it were to expand into a two-day event so we could cover more pressing world issues and give a more accurate UN experience. In the real UN there are other committees apart from the General Assembly such as the crisis committee, it would be really cool if we could eventually have other committees as well!” he wrote in an email.
With guidance and structure provided, the event was organized by the HHSS leadership class students, who have been preparing since November.
Leadership teacher Paul Longo said the motivation was to give HHSS and area students a local model UN.
“It’s always nice to have something happen within our board. The overall goal of something like this is not only to talk about world issues and have a youth voice to world issues, but just to make some friends and make some connections. Where better to do that than in our own board with our own schools,” he said.
Longo has been taking students to model UNs for more than 10 years, but doesn’t recall another event like this held at HHSS that included other area schools with the exception of possibly 2002.
“The great thing is all the kids, who are at the dais (the front desk at the stage), which is basically the organizing committee, they’ve all attended model UN and so they know the language, they know the decorum ... they know how to run this. They were very, very excited to chair it,” he said.
He was impressed by the leadership students, referring to how they did a great job at keeping the students focused.
They were at the heart of making the event possible.
“I was always leery in the past to do it because it takes a lot of planning, but with the new leadership group it just made a lot of sense because a lot of the kids in leadership have been at model UN. So they were excited to host one. Instead of just for our school of kids, why don’t we open it up to the board,” he said.
Due to scheduling conflicts, HHSS students weren’t able to attend the Chaminade College School Annual Model United Nations in October. They made up for the Chaminade absence by holding their own.
“When the timing didn’t work out it was a push for us to host. Then my hope is we go to [a model UN] next year and then we host or run TUNA again,” Longo said.
He credits past teachers Traci Hubbert and Paul Morissette with getting the ball rolling around the year 2000 by taking their students to model UN conferences. His involvement started around 2004.
This event was possible because of a $2,000 TLDSB program enhancement grant. It helped to cover general expenses, food and transportation costs so students could attend.
Once the participating students committed to coming they were assigned a country and asked to write a position paper, which provided background about the country and its history as well as its stance on climate change. Students were provided a resource with the HHSS website, trilliumun.com.
Before the delegates came, they were asked to vote on four potential topics: food security, migration crisis, international trade and climate change.
The topic chosen was climate change, but was followed closely by migration crisis.
“If we had a two-day conference we would definitely have both those topics on the agenda, but climate change is so important and so real. These kids know this is their future and it’s coming out loud and clear in the room today,” Longo said.
All six high schools in the board were invited. Students from I.E. Weldon, Fenelon Falls Secondary School and Gravenhurst High School participated.
“Hopefully we get the word out after today,” Longo said.
Leadership students were not the only ones eligible to be a delegate and participate.
Longo said there were close to 15 other HHSS students who participated. About 32 HHSS students acted as country delegates of the 60 total students represented countries as delegates.
Longo said this event is similar to Trillium Lakelands Arts Camp, which provides students from Grade 7 to 12 specialized instruction for music, drama, music theatre, dance and visual arts in a camp setting.
“My own children have been to TLAC. They rave about it. The fact that they are able to meet other kids from Lindsay and Fenelon [Falls] and make these connections and stay in touch with these kids. They build friendships,” he said.
The morning of the event Longo wasn’t sure about the progress and being able to pass a resolution.
Despite the uncertainty, the experience the students gained at the model UN isn’t very different to the real thing.
“This is the General Assembly. This is the way it works. Everything kind of grinds to a halt sometimes so my hope is we actually get one resolution of one of the topics. Hopefully by the end of the day we have a resolution on green energy because that’s the first topic of debate,” he said.
Longo would love to see the model UN continue to grow and move around to be held at other schools.
“My vision is that if this becomes something our board really likes and our teachers involved really like that this can move around throughout the board [area],” he said. “We really like the idea of a Trillium United Nations Assembly. It’s a board-wide initiative. Hopefully we can do that. If we have to host again next year that’s fine.”