About Town: Students form Frontier's first Model UN Club
SOUTH DEERFIELD — For three days last month, a group of 12 Frontier Regional High School students worked for hours in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel trying to come up with solutions to poverty in South Africa, the AIDS epidemic in Africa and Chinese finance development, among other world issues.
It was the first time Frontier had entered the world stage, researching and debating ideas, and developing new policies to address some of the world’s most significant problems.
The Frontier students were representing the school’s first-ever Model UN Club in the Boston Invitational Model United Nations Conference, hosted by Boston University on Feb. 21 to 23. They were among 1,400 students, or “delegates,” that met in downtown Boston.
It started last spring when two students, Chloe Nunn, 18, of South Deerfield and Sabrina Westgate, 17, of Conway, organized the club.
“We were sitting in the library one day after school and were thinking how there could be an organization that could keep us up to date on current events,” Westgate said.
With that simple “brain baby,” as the students call it, they spontaneously formed the school’s Model UN Club. The two girls found an adviser, history teacher Alison Walters, developed a mission for the club and proposed it to the school. At it s first meeting last spring, 20 students attended. There remains an active group of 18 students.
“The Model UN comes up with solutions to world problems. We thought it would be cool,” Nunn said.
This weekend, the Frontier students will compete in their second conference at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where they were offered a last-minute spot. The school department also offered to pay for the cost of the conference. The Amherst competition will involve historical events and require students to come up with new solutions to past problems.
At the Boston conference, Frontier students represented 12 of about 30 different committees.
Westgate represented Uganda and the South Africa Development Committee. She focused on coming up with solutions to poverty and prevention of HIV and AIDS.
Nunn, meanwhile, worked for a nongovernmental organization, Oxfam International, which is dedicated to ending poverty. As an NGO, Nunn was given aid packages to use to build programs for countries.
Frontier had to compete with schools with long traditions of Model UN clubs. Unlike many schools, the Frontier students created their club on their own.
“It was a good feeling to see the goal of starting the club had come to fruition,” Nunn said.
The prep work was long and arduous, but fun, the students said.
“We’re both very focused people,” Westgate said. “For us, the Model UN was more fun than work.”
Over the course of the next few months, the students held mock debates, wrote position papers and researched the guidelines of the conference. At first, the students practiced debating from positions they disagreed with. The first topic was whether to keep school lunches the same or change them.
Despite the extra work, the students kept up with their regular school work, they said.
“Sometimes, I’ll finish homework and then for two hours scroll through news,” Nunn laughed.
This year, Nunn has an independent study class, which she used to prepare for the conference.
The two girls said the Model UN helped prepare them for college. Nunn, a senior, has been accepted to her first choice college, the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she wants to study marine biology. Westgate, a junior, is planning to study chemical engineering. Although they do not plan to pursue politics or international relations, the students said the conference helped them enhance critical thinking skills.
“It helped open our eyes to the world around us,” Nunn said.
Model UN can be for any student, Westgate said as long as they’re dedicated and interested.
“Anyone can participate if they want to be part of Model UN Club. We try to help everyone as much as possible,” Westgate said.
Often, the group would meet after school to help with position papers.
The cost for each school to attend the Boston conference is $3,000, which includes a school fee, delegate fees and hotel fees.
To cover the costs, the students held two trivia nights in November and January to raise money.
The first trivia night was held in the Frontier library, but the club moved it to the Polish American Citizens Club in South Deerfield to accommodate more people. The club charged $16 per team if they registered in advance and $20 per team at the door.
For the second trivia night, the club also incorporated the Food Bank of Western Mass, asking people to provide one canned good or donate $25 per team. By the end, the club collected 50 pounds of food.
For its next event, the club may combine a fundraiser for the club with raising money for cystic fibrosis, which Boston University had supported at the conference.
“As a club starting out, it is important to do community service,” Nunn said.
“It’s all about relationships and community,” Westgate added.
You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.