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No slackers allowed at Model U.N.

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ASPEN Young Aspen diplomats will take a seat in the United Nations General Assembly chambers in New York City next month, working on some of the knotty international problems facing their elders every day.The students, 15 Aspen High School freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, will be taking part in the 33rd annual National High School Model United Nations conference from March 7-10 at the Hilton New York Convention Center.According to the organization’s website, there will be roughly 2,000 high schoolers participating from schools around the U.S.Participation in the club and the conference involves considerable study and preparation time outside normal school hours, said two of this year’s attendees, senior David Hach and freshman Lyndsey Jackson.”It takes a lot of work,” Jackson said, including writing a 500-word “position paper” on an assigned topic area before the trip.

“You have to really want it, in order to be able to achieve a good position paper and a good outlook on your country and your topic,” she said. “Model U.N. is definitely not for someone who is a slacker.”Participants have been meeting for lunchtime study sessions but are taking this week off, Jackson said. Mock debates among the “delegates” begin next week.On top of all the studying, participants are also in the middle of a fundraising frenzy to come up with half of the estimated $10,000 it will cost for the trip.”I’m driving the Hickory House [delivery] truck,” Hach said, while Jackson said she is babysitting, tutoring and just about anything else she can to raise the $350 each student is responsible for. The motto of the NHSMUN and its parent organization, the International Model U.N. Association, is “education through simulation.” The idea is to offer students a chance to learn about the governments of other cultures and peoples, and about how various cultures co-exist, through “consensus and compromise.”This is the second time Aspen High School social studies and history teacher Matt Wells has taken students to a Model U.N. Last year the school’s Model U.N. club went to San Jose, Costa Rica, to participate in a regional conference.

Wells said he thought about going back to Costa Rica this year, but the school district rescheduled the annual Ex-Ed program to spring, coinciding with the Costa Rica conference.Both Hach and Jackson, along with most other participants, will be representing the island nation of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. Two local students also have been assigned to represent Jordan, Well said.”I didn’t even know Mauritius existed before this,” said Jackson, who has a seat on the Special Political and Decolonization Committee. She’s researching the small nation’s positions on two topics – the Basque independence movement in Spain and the international puzzle of migration reform.The migration reform issue, she said, is a familiar one for Mauritius, left over from colonial times, which now involves working toward agreements on universal human rights “so they [migrants] will be safe in whatever country they live in.”As for the Basque movement, she said, Mauritius has close relations with Spain, and is mostly interested in convincing separatists to abandon violence as a way of getting what they want. Hach, on the Economics and Finance Committee, is studying up on trade liberalization and the question of financing responsible development in nations with corrupt regimes.



An example of his findings on the assigned topics, he said, is that Mauritius is in favor of trade liberalization, a euphemism for free trade, mostly in order to have a chance to compete in world markets for sugar, the country’s main export product.Aside from the work related to the conference, attendees will have one day and evening to check out plays or other cultural offerings, and will attend a “delegate dance” Friday night.But now, Jackson said, the students aren’t worrying about the social aspects of the trip.”We’re more concerned with the actual conference, the dealings with that,” she said.Anyone interested in learning more about the conference, or in contributing to the club’s travel fund, can e-mail Wells at mwells@aspenk12.net or call him at 925-3760, ext. 1206.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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