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Area students tackle world issues at Model United Nations event

Tuesday's event encouraged high school students to 'have a little bit of fun, learn a bit about the world, and how to be an engaged, active citizen on the global scale,' says history teacher

Area high school students wrestled global issues at the annual Model United Nations (UN) event on Tuesday.

The event was hosted at the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) Education Centre in Midhurst.

The SCDSB marked the 35th Model United Nations event with students debating the global issues of rare earth mineral mining, transnational organized crime, and mental health.

Each student assumed the role of a delegate representing a different country from one of five regions around the world.

Each delegate was tasked with representing and debating the interests, beliefs and ideals of their respective country in small regional groups, with the students then presenting their countries’ stance on the issues in a general assembly of delegates.

More than 150 students representing nine SCDSB secondary schools participated in the student-run event.

Parker Smith, 16, of Innisdale Secondary School, was representing Argentina. He wrote a proposal in favour of rare earth elements.

“It did not get passed by the general assembly, but we did have a lot of support from the community,” he said during a short break in the proceedings.

“I was hoping for a little more support, but people did like the speech I wrote and presented to the assembly.”

His proposal was in support of bringing more economic growth to developing countries, bringing in a rare earth element bank, and a distribution board that would those elements accordingly.

What does this educational exercise mean for him?

“It’s a stepping stone, as I would like to go into politics, and I feel this has really opened my eyes to watch what the future has to offer,” Smith explained.

Max Nykoliation, a Grade 12 student, debated under Australia’s flag at the assembly. He had a key part, as Australia controls a lot of the rare earth elements, and his role was to help garner support for the proposal.

Nykoliation thinks it’s an important event for students in becoming better speakers overall.

“The event is an opportunity for high school students to step outside of their comfort zone and be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he said.

“A lot of times, students are very nervous — they have to speak in front of hundreds of people for the very first time, but it’s important for student development. It also brings value when you learn how the world works.

“Originally, I was filled with apprehension, but I did it the first year, and I loved it so much that I had to come back for a second year.”

Rachel Wagniere, a Grade 12 student at Bear Creek Secondary School, represented Sweden.

“It’s just so much fun to step into another country’s perspective other than our own,” she said, “and to be able to all come together and be able to debate issues that are incredibly relevant to the world today.

“We have rare earth elements, we have transnational organized crime, and mental health, which sometimes takes the sidelines in the news today but is equally relevant.”

Wagniere said she is hoping to enrol in a political science course next year as part of her post-secondary education.

Rob Howatson, a history teacher at Banting Memorial High School in Alliston, is the head coordinator of the event.

He believes the most important takeaways for students at the event are to hone and demonstrate the skills they’ve been learning in their classes and to “have a little bit of fun, learn a bit about the world, and how to be an engaged, active citizen on the global scale.”

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Kevin Lamb

About the Author: Kevin Lamb

Kevin Lamb picked up a camera in 2000 and by 2005 was freelancing for the Barrie Examiner newspaper until its closure in 2017. He is an award-winning photojournalist, with his work having been seen in many news outlets across Canada and internationally
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