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Manor students have an experience of a lifetime

Manhattan was not only home to its usual business crew from May 12 to 14, but also home to Model United Nations clubs from throughout the world.
Manor students dressed to impress at the MUN conference in New York. (Left to right: Stephanie Hodgson, Hayley Englot, Nicole Andrew, Brayden Rowley, Luke McCrimmon and Kent Lees)

Manhattan was not only home to its usual business crew from May 12 to 14, but also home to Model United Nations clubs from throughout the world. Manor MUN club was one of many that participated in the 12th Annual Global Classrooms International Model UN Conference held in New York over a three-day period. More than 2,300 students participated in this year's event.

Six students represented the Manor MUN club during this experience of a lifetime including Nicole Andrew, Hayley Englot, Stephanie Hodgson, Kent Lees, Luke McCrimmon and Brayden Rowley. Supervisor and club organizer, Principal Ron Wardrope, said the experience was what he had hoped for.

The students left from Carlyle on May 10, travelling all day and arriving in New York on Wednesday. Students attended the training session and opening ceremonies on Thursday evening, before the commencement of the conference proceedings on Friday.

Friday meant the start of committee discussions. Students had the opportunity to present their position papers in front of a student delegation of more than 250 students in some circumstances. Manor MUN club was assigned the country of Morocco, and therefore, students acted as ambassadors for the country on specific UN committees. Time was spent preparing position papers on their individual topics prior to arriving in New York.

When asked what the students thought of the conference, the response was unanimous. "Overwhelming!" Wardrope said that "there are some students that come from big schools that put a lot of hours into current events and politics, so that can be a little intimidating for the students." MUN clubs attended the conference from China, Italy, Vancouver, Ontario, England and Turkey.

"To get up in front a microphone in front of almost 300 people and try to state a position, that is pretty intimidating" said Wardrope. Two students, Andrew and Hodgson, rose to the challenge this year with the remaining students, hoping to do so in the future. "At the very beginning of the conference, I was very nervous and intimidated to say the least. By day two, my partner and I were part of another countries resolution paper and were beginning to see the other ideas being presented. So, we decided to share the thoughts of 'Monaco,' which was a cool experience for me. To actually stand up and speak for other people to hear" said Andrew. Hodgson summed up the experience as "nerve-wracking."

Rowley explained the conference proceedings. "In ours, we were regions. So Western Europe, the States and Canada [and others], and we all came up with one resolution. Then the next day we brought it all together. So, the seven different regions came up with three together. We went from a committee of 50 to being put together as one. So all of the ambassadors representing different countries came together in the end. And there are moderated caucus and un-moderated caucus. During un-moderated caucus, there is a lot of negotiating."

Andrew's favourite thing of the conference was "being in the United Nations and listening to the Secretary General of the UN speak. It was crazy to think that I was actually there in the same room with someone with that much authority and influence." She continued with "I think I have a new appreciation for the United Nations and everything they do! There was a lot of time and effort put into our conference and it was only a 'Model' UN. So the extent of research and time and thought put into an actual United Nations events would be crazy."

Rowley stated that the hardest part of the conference was "putting ourselves in Monaco's place and having to interact with other people at the conference, because everyone had completely different ideas. But by the end they were all one." "Yeah, sometimes they were similar, sometimes they were not even close. It was kind of ridiculous actually because they would be so similar sometimes, that they were almost the same. Yet, they would be arguing over it because they both wanted to be right" said Lees. Rowley continued "Sometimes you would have two people in the middle of the room yelling at each other and five minutes later they would be working together. So, you see people being brought together. And there are different cultures there working together which is pretty neat."

The students participated in not only the conference, but the New York experience as well. The week-long trip left the students three days to see Manhattan and all of the sights that the city of New York has to offer. Sights included Times Square, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, Ground Zero, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island, a New York Yankees games, Central Park and a number of other places. Additionally, the students were able to take a tour on a double decker bus and saw Brooklyn during a night tour. To top it off, the students had two celebrity sightings during their week-long trip.

When asked about their favourite Big Apple experience, the answers varied. Lees said "Times Square was probably my favourite. And St. Patrick's cathedral because it is the only place in New York where you can hear yourself think." Andrew said her favourite part was "probably Central Park and just the walk down there. I'm a small town kid used to small town beauty but in New York it's a different kind of old, rustic beauty and I loved it."

This 'learning' extended well beyond the conference doors. "I thought it was amazing to see the transformation of these students from the start to the end. Because the first day we went down on the subway, it was obvious that they were a little cautious. And by the end, they knew where they needed to be and how to get there. That was really neat to me to see how they adapted and responded to the environment" said Wardrope.

As for whether the trip will be an annual or semi-annual trip in the future, that question is still up in the air. For the students, they have made it very clear to Wardrope that they hope to see the trip offered next year. With the first experience under their belt, the intimidation factor would be less of a challenge. Lees said "I think it would be cool to go back. I mean when we were there, we didn't know very much about it. But now, we know how it all works and stuff like that. I feel like I could get a bit more involved in the conference." "If I was to go back next year, I would definitely get up and speak. Because now I would know what was coming. And I would probably get up and do it right off the hop" said Rowley.

Wardrope said "an even number of students is good because for this youth conference, they tend to pair you up. I don't know how big we would get because you are in New York City. And we had two chaperones which was adequate for six students, but more students would mean more chaperones. We will have to see what happens next year and the level of interest from the students."

Wardrope wanted to send a big thank you out to all of their sponsors. "If we are going to make this trip work again, we are really going to need sponsorship. There is a substantial cost to going to a conference such as this, but the experience for the students is well worth the cost." The group also acknowledges all of the help from Cindy Weir, one of the EAs in Manor School. "She really took on the job of organizing the fundraising efforts of the kids. Everything from catering, to taking donations of pop cans, to shovelling snow for businesses to organizing Santa photos to be taken during the Christmas concert. She was a really big help to the fundraising efforts."