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Highland Students Attend Model UN Conference

The Highland Model UN delegation A group of 30 Highland High School students has been immersed in learning about some very serious and complex current events: the refugee and human trafficking crisis in the Middle East and the situation in Venezuela. They’ve also gone back in time to February 1969 to serve as members of newly elected President Richard Nixon’s cabinet during the War in Vietnam, in addition to as taking on the responsibilities of the different princes, kings, and diplomats who were charged with building a stable peace and balance of power among the various war-torn European countries after Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat at Waterloo.

On Saturday, November 17, the students traveled to Bard College to showcase their research, knowledge, and public speaking skills on these topics by participating in Bard’s Model United Nations Conference (BardMUNC). There, the Husky delegation joined with other students from as far away as Ohio to replicate a United Nations session and present their positions on these complex situations. Student delegates were expected to learn the stances of their assigned countries prior to the event and represent them accurately, regardless of their personal views.

Opening sessions were devoted to student debate about how to tackle the issue, while the afternoon session addressed building coalitions and writing position papers that were then voted on to become resolutions.

This is Highland’s ninth year as an active Model UN (MUN) Club, but advisor Barry Ranalli’s first year leading the students. Mr. Ranalli is a Social Studies teacher who just moved to Highland High School after 19 years of teaching at Highland Middle School.

“I was totally impressed with how the students prepared for this. They took it so seriously. They were not messing around. They dressed, prepared, and interacted professionally, not only with their classmates but with delegates from other schools,” said Ranalli.

The students’ hard work and preparation resulted in the Husky delegation bringing home some prestigious awards. Senior Saipranav Golkonda took the Best Delegate award for his work on the Nixon Cabinet committee, and the team of Farrah Ogelle and Isabela Cuya brought home an Honorable Delegate award for their work in the General Assembly session on the refugee and human trafficking crisis in the Middle East.

Senior Rylee Montelione, president of the HHS MUN Club, has been participating in Model UN since her freshman year and finds the experience remarkable. “I absolutely love Model UN with my whole heart and am very passionate about it,” she said. “I honestly think it is something every high school student should be required to try for at least one year. You learn so many skills from listening, research, public speaking, debate, writing, reading comprehension, and networking. It’s great for people to have to learn about the world around them and think about different perspectives.”

With BardMun under their belts, the Highland Model UN Club members now have a February trip to Boston for BosMUN in their sights. This spring, the students will also host their own conference at SUNY New Paltz. The students meet after school every Monday to hone their skills.

According to the Bard Model United Nations Initiative (BMUNI), BardMUNC was founded on the belief that Model UN participation empowers students to develop knowledgeable opinions on political affairs, speak powerfully, and gain confidence in themselves. Participating high school students learn how to write policy papers, research and discuss international current affairs, and become confident public speakers, all while exploring the world’s most pressing international crises.