Earlier this month, Mount Madonna School (MMS) students participated in a Model United Nations (Model UN) mini-conference hosted by York School on their Monterey campus. This event was a casual scrimmage open to all levels and organized to foster a sense of community with other local Model UN groups following three years of not having access to many in-person conferences.
“I was fortunate to be invited to bring a few middle schoolers to the conference,” said teacher Chrislaine Miller, who led the middle school contingent. “I enlisted a crew of very brave and talented seventh and eighth graders, and in the end, because of schedules, just two students served as the only middle school delegates at the conference. These students represented Haiti and were part of solving the refugee crisis in Latin America.”
“I was really nervous at first because we were in a room with high school students,” said seventh grader Delmi McWilliams. “However, I actually had a speech prepared and stuff to say about Haiti and the refugee crisis because Noa and I did research work with Chrislaine. Chrislaine’s parents are from Haiti and she was able to give us a crash course on Haiti’s current political situation over the past month and it really helped. During the conference, the high school delegates actually considered our ideas when I spoke and some of the teams even adopted our solutions for the resolutions that groups of delegates wrote and voted on at the end. The whole experience felt like you were actually important to solving world problems.”
“I had a lot more fun than I thought I would,” commented classmate Noa Zands. “It wasn’t as scary once I started talking. Having a partner with me to talk with was really helpful.”
“I was so impressed with how well our students participated in the earlier Berkeley Model UN conference, and I was just as impressed with how well Bea and Amelie participated in this small but vibrant conference,” said Shirley. “Watching them at work was a joy, and I couldn’t help but think that the performing arts experience at MMS has prepared these students well to take on such serious work in a public setting. I saw the same thing when I observed Delmi and Noa in their conference. Frankly, I found all their performances at the conference inspiring.”
“It was really cool,” said ninth grader Amelie Zands. “The whole conference was run by students. I felt like everyone was prepared and confident, and it felt okay to speak up about the issues and solutions we came up with during the sessions.”
“It was a great learning experience and an amazing way to meet new people and learn about the refugee crisis in Latin America from the perspective of Norway,” said tenth grader Bea Miller. “A specific highlight was meeting the group from Santa Catalina School of Monterey, who had been doing Model UN for four years. They were all super-welcoming and nice to talk to during the conference.”
“The COVID pandemic has greatly affected this program,” commented Chrislaine Miller. “While some conferences did continue to meet online during the pandemic, these cannot capture the in-person feeling of collaboration and negotiations that go on during these events, so we are grateful for the precautions and planning that went into making the York School event a success.”
Since February, Miller has been preparing all MMS sixth and seventh grade students to attend the Lyceum of Monterey’s annual middle school Model UN conference. While the Lyceum didn’t get enough interest for an in-person middle school conference, Miller decided to create and host a mini-conference at Mount Madonna School in the effort to utilize the students’ preparation work.
This was the second MUN conference of the year for MMS students. In March, 11 students, led by Shirley, participated in the 70th Model UN conference at the University of California, Berkeley.
On Saturday, May 14, Mount Madonna will host the first MMS Mini-MUN Conference with the help of the Lyceum. The conference is open to all middle schools in the area with the hope of getting “new to MUN” students interested and teams back up and running for the next school year.
“We are grateful to our school for giving MMS students this opportunity to meet together on a Saturday and practice what we learned this year,” said Miller. “Furthermore, in the effort to rally other schools to join us and experience the magic of Model UN, the seventh graders came up with a video that we are sharing with teachers in the region about why students should come to our Mini-MUN Conference in May regardless of their preparation work.”
Mount Madonna’s Head of School Ann Goewert commented on the broad values of experiences such as Model UN participation for students.
“Mount Madonna School has a rich tradition of developing its students’ capacities to think critically to solve pressing global issues,” said Goewert. “Model UN provides a unique opportunity for students to flex these muscles. Through this process, they are gaining a deeper understanding of the value and importance of global citizenry.”
Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,
Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.