USC Model UN holds high school conference

USC’s Model United Nations hosted their third annual Southern California Model United Nations conference over the past weekend for high school delegates. A total of around 180 delegates from 15 high schools attended the conference with most hailing from Southern California or the L.A. metropolitan area and a few from the San Francisco Bay Area. The conference was held at the Von Kleismend Center and offered a range of activities for the high school students.

The conference’s theme was global security and privacy with an emphasis on technology and ethics in society. MUNSC featured eight scenarios and a total of 11 committees. There were two general assemblies —the disarmament and security committee and economic and social committee. The conference also had three joint crisis committees, which had high schoolers working on both sides of a conflict. These committees included the 1983 U.S. and Soviet Union cabinets, The Troubles with the British and Irish Republican cabinets, and the upcoming 2016 election between the DNC and RNC. Other scenarios explored during the conference included the League of Nations during the Italo-Abyssinian War and even the futuristic issue of space colonization and interstellar politics.

Shikhar Gupta, secretary general of MUNSC and the conference, helped organize the event. According to his invitation address to the high school students on SCMUN’s website, SCMUN was uniquely designed to have a range of crisis committees as well as nontraditional roles such as corporation and press roles. In doing so, MUNSC was meant to mimic college-level conferences to challenge the high school students.

Drew Schmidt, president of MUNSC and the director general for the high school conference, expressed his enthusiasm for the growing conference as well the opportunities it contained for the high school students.

“[SCMUN] is going really well for being so young in its infancy,” he said. “It takes a while to earn the trust of the high schools. A lot of the time, because they’re going to spend money on it, they want to go to the [conferences] they’ve always gone to so getting new high schools to choose to come to MUNSC is our biggest challenge but it’s really fun to be on the forefront of something new.”

According to Schmidt, the conference was designed to challenge the high school students in their ability to improvise and make fast decisions.

“Our conference is very crisis-oriented,” he said. “We love helping the high schoolers develop the skills to think on their feet. There’s no substitute to learn how to speak in front of other people.”

Max Hill, a sophomore majoring in international relations, and Brian Walsh, a sophomore majoring in accounting, both joined MUNSC recently and helped out in the 1983 U.S. and Soviet Union joint crisis committee.

“We’ve been putting the delegates through different scenarios and guiding them throughout the process to see what responses they have for our updates,” Hill said. “It took a very different turn from history, though — they ended up nuking each other. But it was very fun because we mix reality up a bit.”

Claire Catlin, a junior at Palos Verdes High School, was part of the Republican Party for the joint crisis committee that imitated the 2016 election cycle. She imitated the role of Ben Carson.

“They had actual news that was polls and rumors,” she said. “It wasn’t super structured, and it was more debate style. The committees weren’t super big so we could actually get work with other delegates.”

Catlin is in her first year of participating in Model UN at her high school.

“I like Model UN as a whole because there’s a lot of debating and you get to learn a lot of information you wouldn’t normally [learn],” she said. “I didn’t know a lot about the election process beforehand. And I’m voting in the next election so this has been really helpful.”

According to Schmidt, the next school year will be an exciting year for MUNSC because not only will they host another high school conference, they will also host a college conference called TrojanMUN for intercollegiate delegates. As for away conferences, the organization plans to travel to universities all over the nation, including Columbia University, Georgetown University, UC Santa Barbara, McGill University, Princeton University, UC Berkeley and UCLA.

“We earned a lot of awards this year from our travel team and just generally showed up on everybody’s radar on the east coast, where [MUN] is a well-established hobby and sport,” Schmidt said.

For the next MUNSC, Schmidt hopes to expand the number of attending delegates to be 250 to 300 high school students.

Schmidt said the experience he’s gathered from participating in Model UN has been invaluable and hopes the experience for high school students will be similar as they learn impromptu speaking.