Students Address the Global Challenges of Our Times
Rebecca Kaplan loves the Diplomatic Leadership Club. Intellectually, the club is making her a better debater and public speaker, and she’s learning skills she’ll need — conflict resolution, negotiation, and teamwork— if she chooses one day to work in international affairs. And socially, the club is a ton of fun.
“I enjoy the social opportunities that the Diplomatic Leadership Club has to offer,” says Kaplan, a junior at Dwight Global. “Meeting students from around the world has been a wonderful experience. I still keep in touch with some of the friends I’ve made, all of us having common interests in global affairs and politics. It has been a highlight of my junior year and I’m beyond excited to participate in the club during the 2021-2022 school year.”
Students interested in global affairs, American government, or research and debate should consider joining the club, adds Kaplan. It’s also a great club for students who like to travel, see colleges and cities, and meet new people.
Essentially, a Model UN/Model Congress is a simulation of an actual UN conference or a Congressional session, says Lou Gallo, a European history teacher who advises the club. Students assume the roles of delegates, and work in teams to propose solutions to international problems. They are actual problems that have been discussed at the UN or in the House and Senate, such as how nations can work together to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The discussions are framed by the UN's rules of parliamentary procedure, which gives the student real-world experience.
“It’s excellent preparation for college,” says Gallo. “Our students enhance their research and public-speaking abilities, work with other students to solve problems, and hone leadership skills. And it looks great on college applications.”
The Diplomatic Leadership Club also gives Dwight Global students, who usually work online, the chance to meet in person. Due to lockdowns, they were unable this year to meet in person, but the club plans to attend three conferences next year; UCLA Model UN in Los Angeles, the Global Citizen Model UN in New York, and the Harvard Model Congress in either San Francisco, Madrid, or Boston. Club members usually arrive at a conference a day early to have time to see college campuses and visit the historical amenities in cities. If they attend the Boston conference, for example, they’ll get to tour Harvard yard, sit in on a class, and visit historic sites such as the Freedom Trail and Quincy Market, after which they’ll have dinner in Boston’s Little Italy. This past year, the club virtually attended conferences sponsored by Harvard, Rutgers, the University of Southern California, and the Tennessee YMCA Center for Civic Engagement, and members have won several recognitions and awards.
“Model UN is an excellent way for students to learn about and see the world we live in,” says Gallo.
Hazel Lessard, a junior at Dwight Global, says she joined the club not knowing what to expect, and has been thrilled with the results. During the Model Congress competitions, she’s encouraged to “analyze huge issues and conflicts with a different and somewhat less-conventional eye.” And she believes that the mix of debate, research, and problem-solving have made her a more adept debater and public speaker.
“Most of the attributes I pride myself on have been a direct result of my participation in Model UN,” says Lessard, who is now co-president of the club. “Many of our members have walked away with awards, but what we all walk away with is a new understanding and perspective of the world. This is why I love the club.”
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, says he’s inspired by the students who participate in Model UN clubs. In a recent video message to the students, Guterres said the world is facing one of its biggest challenges (Covid-19) since the Second World War. And in these trying times, he salutes the students’ commitment to international cooperation.
“I draw great hope from seeing your generation mobilized to address the challenges of our times,” says Guterres, “and to build a healthier, more equitable and sustainable future for all.”