Grandview Heights students learn art of diplomacy through Model UN program

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Grandview Heights High School students Connor Hayes (left) and Harvey Pierce participate in the National High School Mock United Nations conference, which was held virtually March 10-13. Nine GHHS students participated in the event, which could not be held in New York City as usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compromise is a big component of the art of diplomacy.

So when the COVID-19 pandemic meant that this year's National High School Model United Nations conference would not be held in New York City as planned, a compromise was needed to allow the event to proceed.

Students, including those at Grandview Heights High School, stayed home and participated in a virtual conference.

"It was disappointing because this was going to be the first time we were going to have students traveling to New York," said science teacher Caleb Evans, who serves as the GHHS group's adviser.

Grandview students were stationed in the high school media center while participating in the virtual program that ran March 10-13.

NHSMUN is the largest Model United Nations conference for high school students and is in its 48th year. The event has hosted students from more than 130 countries, according to the NHSMUN website.

Grandview's Model UN program was initiated in 2019 by two students, Harvey Pierce and Tyler Schmied, both juniors this year. 

"They came to me at lunch one day and said they had come across this program and wanted to get it started in Grandview," Evans said. 

The program serves as a hands-on way for students to learn more about politics and diplomacy and how agreements are reached and issues resolved in the real world, he said. 

"It also helps students develop leadership skills," Evans said. 

"I'd heard about other schools that did a Model UN program," Pierce said. "I've always been interested in geography and politics.

"The Model UN is a way to combine those two subjects," he said. "You get to learn about different countries and their characteristics and the characteristics of their people."

"I'm interested in international relations, and learning about the world from a global sense is really interesting," Schmied said. "I thought it would be fun to find out if it's anything like how you see it portrayed in movies and on TV."

About 15 students participate in Grandview's Model UN club, which meets each Tuesday during lunch period, Evans said. 

Students can earn a course credit by immersing themselves further in the program, completing additional work and assignments and meeting with Evans on Thursdays for an extra session.

Nine students participated in the nationals, and three participated in the Ohio State University Model UN conference March 25-28, Evans said.

The Ohio State program involved students delving into a crisis scenario based on a historic event, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, he said.

Grandview Heights High School student Emma Murphy  participates in the National High School Mock United Nations conference, which was held virtually March 10-13. Nine GHHS students participated in the event, which could not be held in New York City as usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national conference offers students an opportunity to explore current and real-world issues by being assigned to represent a nation on a committee or specialized agency, each tasked to craft a solution or agreement on issues that could gain majority support by member countries, Evans said.

"They're not really competitions, although there are awards given out," he said.

"For OSU, anyone is welcome to attend," Evans said. "Nationals require more work, and although any can participate, they need to be willing to complete the work necessary to participate in nationals."

Both Pierce and Schmied participated in the nationals.

Pierce served as a representative of Indonesia on the G20, a forum of 19 countries, most of which are among the most developed nations, and the European Union.

For this year's Model UN, the G20 addressed two topics: the development of smart cities for integration within the digital world and access to the global digital economy in the developing markets.

"We had to come up with a resolution on both those issues that the majority of the G20 nations would support," Pierce said.

The process helped him see that it's important in politics and diplomacy to consider the other person's – or nation's – position, he said.

"It's a question of having empathy," Pierce said.

Schmied served as a representative of El Salvador on the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

The CCPCJ addressed the topics of preventing gang participation among youth and ensuring the equal treatment of girls and women in the justice system.

"El Salvador is pretty draconian in those areas, and my own way of thinking doesn't really follow their approach," Schmied said.

But as a representative of El Salvador, he said, he had to propose and find information and data to support a position that he didn't really agree with.

"You're trying to accurately portray the position the nation you're representing would likely take," Schmied said.

Throughout this school year, the Grandview Model UN club has been holding its own sessions under a scenario occurring during the late Cold War era, Evans said.

Except in this case, the Soviet Union has prevailed over the United States, he said.

The result is that the United States has split into numerous separate nation states with varying political systems and ideologies, Evans said.

The local sessions have served as practices for the Ohio State and national events Schmied said.

They are like scrimmages a sports team holds before a game, he said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman