Yale Hosts Model UN Conference
The 34th Yale Model United Nations (YMUN) conference will take place January 24–27.
About 1300 high school student delegates from around the country and abroad will participate in this simulation. The event is presented by the Yale International Relations Association (YIRA), the umbrella organization that runs annual Model UN conferences, fields the college-level Model UN team and arranges for international affairs lectures on campus. YIRA is one of over 250 undergraduate student organizations at Yale.
Among this year’s delegates will be more than 30 students from four public high schools in New Haven: Hillhouse, Cooperative Arts & Humanities, Hill Regional Career and Sound schools. Yale College senior Sabrina Howell, coordinator of the YIRA’s Outreach Program, piloted the project for students at Wilbur Cross CT Scholars last year. The goal is to expand socioeconomic diversity in Model UN and help bring international education to New Haven public schools. This year, she worked with Michael Stone of New Haven Public School’s Talented and Gifted Program to expand the program. YIRA covers the costs of weekly seminars at Yale for the high schoolers as well as the conference fees.
Every YMUN delegate is assigned to represent a country and serve on a committee that grapples with some of the world’s most pressing issues. For example, among local delegates, Melissa Matos of Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School is representing India on a committee that will discuss the Kashmir conflict between her adopted country and Pakistan, while Jasmine Wilborne, from the same school, will represent El Salvador on economic issues. Hillhouse students Toddchelle Young and Chevanne Spencer will participate on the Economic and Social Council and the World Health Organization, respectively.
To prepare for the four-day conference, the local high schoolers have attended seminar-style classes at Yale every Friday since October, learning about the international state system, the United Nations and current events from Yale College YIRA members. The teenagers have sharpened their thinking, public speaking, and expository writing and research skills, fueled by free pizza and soft drinks.
According to the YMUN website, “Students are forced to challenge their long-standing assumptions about the world around them. They begin to realize that the premises they readily accept can be completely foreign to other reasonable and intelligent people. In so doing they are making a small intellectual step towards appreciating why, and not just how, the world is torn by strife. MUN is not only about practicing to speak intelligently, but also about learning to think intelligently. And, of course, it’s fun.”
“These are incredible kids,” Howell says. “Engaged and easy to teach, they have sucked up information this semester and have the potential to be superb Model UN delegates and, ultimately, important stakeholders in U.S. foreign policymaking. This fall, they have been doing research on their own, writing position papers and drafting policy statements for their countries.” Steeping high school students in foreign affairs is vital “to being an educated American and participating in politics,” she said. And participation in YMUN “can also make the students stronger candidates as they apply to college.”
For more information, see www.yale.edu/yira/ymun.
Media coverage is invited on Friday, January 25, 2:30–5:30 p.m. Please contact Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, director of communications for New Haven Public Schools, 203-946-8450, to arrange coverage.