Teens tackle global issues at Model UN summit

Six Stelly’s Secondary School students sweep awards at conference held at UVic

Stelly’s students (from left to right) Kaylee Butler

By Alysha Rose and Connor Williamson/Stelly’s Secondary School

During the first week in November, teens and young adults in full business attire flocked to the University of Victoria for the annual University of Victoria Model United Nations (UVic MUN) conference.

This year, Stelly’s Secondary was the sole representative of School District 63 at UVic MUN, with its six delegates Kaylee Butler, Connor Williamson, Armand Birk, Alysha Rose, Peter Reston and Mathias Tucunduva winning seven of 13 available accolades, including Best Delegate in each of the three committees.

The conference, which was held from Nov. 1 to 3, saw each delegate diligently prepare to address the conference’s theme of “A World in Crisis: War, Famine, Debt, and Disease.”

The three simulated committees — the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the Security Council — collectively passed nine resolutions, providing solutions for issues ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to reducing the spread of disease in post-conflict situations.

“I am so honoured to have been part of this Stelly’s MUN journey. The students’ decorum, their diplomacy, their articulate arguments, their conviction and their empathy combined to make them deserving award recipients for this conference,” said Kate Reston, English Department Chair and teacher-sponsor of Model UN at Stelly’s Secondary.

Students from Pacific Christian School, Belmont Secondary, UVic and Stelly’s also participated in a speech contest, with Stelly’s student Armand Birk winning the high school category.

“I didn’t win the speech contest, the Stelly’s team won the speech contest. I would never have been so successful without their support,” said Birk, a Grade 12 student.

Birk and the rest of the Stelly’s Model UN club all agreed that MUN’s value goes far beyond success at conferences. The experiences they had at UVic MUN, they said, will serve them both in and outside the classroom in the future.

Peter Reston, winner of Honourable Mention in the Human Rights Council believes that the club has given him valuable skills which he can apply outside of school.

“The ability to speak with others and cooperate, as well as being able to develop positive and beneficial solutions to complex problems applies to all facets of life,” said Reston.

Where will these students apply their skills next? While the Stelly’s delegates expressed goals varying between careers in politics, the United Nations and medicine, their short term goals include seeking similar success at the Shawnigan Lake (ShawMUN) and Canadian High Schools (CAHSMUN) Model UN conferences in the months ahead.

“We started the Stelly’s Model UN club this year,” explained Alysha Rose.

“Ms. Reston approached me and a few other students and proposed the idea of starting the group. We talked to our peers and spread the word around the school and with the guidance of some MUN veterans — both Stelly’s staff and former students of Ms. Reston — we got our club off the ground,” Rose explained, adding that the group had to learn quickly.

“We did a lot of learning on our feet. We walked into UVic MUN feeling somewhat unsure of what to expect, but we had worked hard and it paid off.”

Some of the club’s original members were unable to attend UVic MUN, but do intend to participate in ShawMUN and CAHSMUN.

The club currently meets twice a week — once at lunch and once after school — to work on research and position paper writing, to get prepared for conferences and to decide what their next endeavours will be.

“We are also hoping to bring in some younger students this year in order to ensure that the club is sustained next year, as most of its current members are senior students,” she said.