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Model U.N. club on course to solve world’s problems

John Colson
Friday-
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Imagine an Aspen High School senior speaking at the General Assembly of the United Nations, arguing forcefully that European powers should keep their noses out of Egypt’s affairs.Meanwhile, her counterparts from Britain, France and Israel are trying in vain to justify their invasion of the Sinai Peninsula in a drive to reverse Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal.And the U.N. envoy from the United States is doing his best to explain why President Eisenhower is threatening to cut off aid to the relatively young state of Israel, while British diplomats are angling for U.S. pledges of oil in the event that Arab oil exporters cut off supplies in solidarity with Nasser and Egypt.And that’s only one debate.The drama of the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 will be one of several weighty and complex issues debated by a group of Aspen High School students, members of the Model U.N. Club, who are going to the Central American nation of Costa Rica in April for a Model U.N. Conference.

The club’s sponsor, world history teacher Matt Wells, said other topics will be a debate centering on post-World War II Europe and what to do with the defeated German nation; a Security Council discussion of nuclear nonproliferation issues; and a look at the fate of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the 21st Century.The club was formed last year, largely because of the energy and interest of senior Grace Schultz, who will be playing the role of Egypt’s representative in the Suez Canal debate.About three years ago, Schultz started looking into the possibility of forming an Aspen chapter of the international Model U.N. program, just around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. With the help of a teacher and some like-minded students, the Aspen club got started a year ago but did not participate in any conferences, so this is its first.Schultz will be one of about 15 local students who will be staying with host families in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Their assignments will be to represent the nations of Argentina, Australia, Egypt, Greece and Tanzania in the different debate arenas, roles the Model U.N. organization assigned to them.The students have been studying information about their particular countries and crises and learning about U.N. regulations, forms and protocols. Assuming the student diplomats can arrive at a solution to whatever problem it is they’re working on, they should be able to write up a realistic resolution for a vote.

Sometimes, Wells admitted, the debates can get off track and, despite the historical evidence of what really happened, the mock conference ends without finding a solution.”I’ve always had an interest” in these kinds of organizations and activities, Schultz said in between classes and play practice – she’s also a respected member of the school’s acting community.”History’s been one of my favorite subjects,” she added, an interest she said she probably got from her father, midvalley consultant and political activist Bob Schultz, who is going along with Wells as a chaperone.Asked how she’s feeling about the upcoming conference, Schultz admitted, “I am feeling a little nervous.”But she is exhilarated at the same time and believes this experience “will help me gain confidence for college,” where she plans to study theater, international relations and psychology.

She also said she is looking forward to getting to Costa Rica a day early and taking a little time to go sightseeing.Schultz said her effort to get the Model U.N. Club off the ground was greatly aided by her history teacher, Wells, who revealed that he had taken part in a Model U.N. conference when he was in high school. It was an experience he said benefited him immensely, and he feels it will do the same for Aspen students.”Kids who are into current events really benefit from these,” he said. “They’re trying to solve the specific problem that their committee has, so, yes, they’re trying to solve the world’s problems in three days.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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