“You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus says while preaching on a mountainside. “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:13-14).
Still dressed in professional business attire, the students in the BCHS Model U.N. Club recently hosted a tournament that included clubs from around the country. This year though, the tournament was held over Zoom.
“The process was essentially the same,” says Rebecca Oriol, club advisor and BCHS teacher. Participating students were assigned a country, committee, and one or more topics that they had to tackle during the tournament.
Before the tournament began, students were required to research their country profile, the background of their topic, and potential solutions to a given problem. Some tournaments even require students to write a position paper to clarify their research.
In case you are under the impression that these high school students are applying their minds to high-school-level concerns at Model U.N. tournaments, let me assure you they are not. These students are discussing nuclear disarmament, global human rights, the refugee crisis in Somalia. Students in the Model U.N. club are learning to solve problems with the other delegates in their committee through research, dialogue, and negotiation – skills which our world desperately needs. This is heavy stuff.
Mrs. Oriol says that her role is simply to help her club members find sources for their research. The tournament is run by students and BCHS alumni. This year, BCHS had four alumni and three upper-classmen chairing the event.
“We are a relatively young club,” says Oriol. She started the club in the 2016-17 school year. Everyone is welcome so long as they are ready to do the work. Unlike other clubs, the Model U.N. club is fluid. Students sign up for the tournaments in which they want to participate. So the team changes frequently.
One constant with the BCHS club is their reputation for quality. They have received an award for Best Small Delegation two years in a row. Several BCHS students who have participated in Model U.N. in high school have gone on to join or start clubs in college.
Today’s technology and our forced acclimatization to it has made it relatively painless to hold a Model U.N. tournament online rather than in person. But Oriol looks forward to the day when the tournaments are held in person again, and she think the students are looking forward to that too.
“There’s something unique about having face-to-face conversations,” she says. “I think a lot of kids have gotten over the awkwardness of Zoom, but there is a difference in our ability to connect with people.”
While technology can open up learning opportunities that were not possible to previous generations of high school students, Oriol says that it’s obvious that kids still love to connect with other kids in person. There has been less interest in joining the online tournaments this year.
Nevertheless, the value that Model U.N. delivers remains the same. Model U.N. gives students the opportunity to engage in healthy conversations about global issues – many of which will be passed on to their generation to solve in real life.
Oriol says that BCHS students often stand out from the crowd at these tournaments. “Advisors from other schools will comment on how our kids conduct themselves,” she says. “They ask me how I get them to behave like that.”
She is incredibly proud of her students. When they enter a tournament, each of them represents their assigned country, their school, and their Father in heaven. As believers, they seem to know that they are called to a higher standard than other students. They are the salt and light of the world. They are a city on a hill. And thankfully, they will be the leaders with whom we will soon trust to tackle some of the greatest global challenges the world has ever known.