In a world of unsure futures, mass revolutions and global economic hurdles, one group of Marcos de Niza High School students is taking steps to gain outside perspectives of foreign countries through their Model United Nations Club.
The club, sponsored by sophomore honors English teacher Rob Owen-Jones, has attended five conferences over the past two years.
Megan Kelly and Jessica Bass, co-presidents of the club, along with Claire Sarsam, vice-president, presented their past two years of experience in the club to Kyrene Corridor Rotary members during the club’s last meeting in December.
“We’re a club that is focused on promoting knowledge about world events,” Owen-Jones said. “What we’ve found is students who have graduated and gone through the program and become civic leaders, as well.”
According to Owen-Jones, students in the club study government procedures, write position papers and become mini-experts in the affairs of the world around them.
“They gain a new perspective and understanding of how the world operates,” he said. “It also provides opportunities for students to question the policies of our country and others.”
Model United Nations Club members attend nation-wide conferences during which they are assigned a country to present, Owen-Jones said.
“They learn the language of being civically active and civically oriented,” he said.
Jessica, a junior at Marcos, said the conferences challenge students to present a country’s view of the world by researching the people’s beliefs and governmental policies.
“Students have months to research their given country and put together an essay on their worldview,” she said.
Jessica added that during their research, they gained an understanding of what’s journalistically important to other countries, as compared to the U.S., mentioning our country’s modest coverage of the recent death of North Korea’s leader.
Rotarian Kenneth Pollack shared with Jessica a few tales of his time spent in Saudi Arabia, reading world papers that he was unfamiliar with, realizing the different perspective those residents had on America and other global issues.
The club recently traveled to Berkeley for a national United Nations conference with more than 2,000 other high school students, a particularly unique experience for students as they represented the Arab Republic of Egypt during this past year’s prominent revolution.
“They had to think on their feet,” Owen-Jones said. “Actually trying to persuade others to your point of view is a very difficult task that could truly be valuable to my high school students as they continue on their academic careers.”
Jessica said it was often hard to stray away from current views in America, and recognizing those impressions others in foreign countries have of the world.
“Students may know why the U.S. does certain things – these conferences provide a greater context,” Owen-Jones said.
Currently, the Marcos club is preparing for a conference in Seattle, hosted by the University of Washington.
The club is independently funded through various projects and donations.