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Model U.N. at MUHS a success

MIDDLEBURY — Model United Nations at Middlebury Union High School set records this year, both for most students winning awards at “away” conferences, and for the largest attendance by students from other schools at the Middlebury Model UN conferences hosted by MUHS.  
Winning awards at the competitive conferences that bring together students from different high schools were MUHS students Josh Bechhoefer at Keene (N.H.) MUN, representing Tunisia, and Northeast Kingdom MUN, United Kingdom; Bastiaan Phair, representing Nigeria at Keene MUN, and the United Kingdom in the Security Council at the Northeast Kingdom MUN; Ronan Howlett, representing Australia at Northeast Kingdom MUN; and Emily Fleming representing Cambodia at the Northeast Kingdom MUN. 
Model UN encourages students to debate global issues of their choice, with each student representing a different country.  It is a way to increase knowledge and confidence, practice negotiating and speaking skills, and become involved with the nuances of decision-making and conflict resolution. Students also learn to chair debates using parliamentary procedure, reinforcing the importance of respect for the rule of law as a way to balance respect for minority rights with decision-making made by majority vote.
Weekly meetings at MUHS give everyone, including first-timers and “drop-ins,” the chance to choose a country placard and get involved in debating the current topic. Topics this year included the refugee crisis in Europe, and the global ivory trade. Students explored these issues from different perspectives in their weekly debates, and were also able to follow the impact of these issues at the Vermont level. Communities in Vermont are dealing with the question of whether and how to welcome Syrian refugees; the Vermont House and Senate created different versions of a bill on the ivory trade but ultimately failed to agree, and the bill was defeated. Coverage of these events in local and state media deepened the students’ awareness of the impact of world events on our own lives.
Model UN co-advisers at the high school are MUHS teacher Bjarki Sears  and Carolyn Schmidt, a community member and former public school teacher.

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