James Monroe students participate in Harvard University Model UN

Twelve James Monroe High School (JMHS) Youth Leadership Alliance (YLA) students traveled to Boston, Massachusetts on 25-30 January 2023 for the Harvard University Model United Nations (HMUN) Conference. In the face of administrative and travel-related challenges the Mavericks performed admirably in the 70th anniversary version of the conference, which attracted approximately 4,000 students from around the world. After a rigorous selection process those selected to compete were Shane Arthur, Emily Bailey, Emma Ballard, Braydie Carr, Luke Fraley, Michael Fraley, Luke Jackson, Sadie Maxey, Thomas Sibold, Cole Thomas, Katherine Viars, and Bryceson Whitt.

The 2023 Maverick HMUN Team, from left to right: Luke Fraley, Braydie Carr, Michael Fraley, Thomas Sibold, Luke Jackson, Shane Arthur, Bryceson Whitt, Cole Thomas, Sadie Maxey, Emily Bailey, Emma Ballard, and Katherine Viars.

In Model UN debate student delegates represent a country assigned to them and work with other delegates to develop solutions to problems as diverse as public health disparities, cybercrime and cyberwarfare, globalization, impact of economic sanctions, genetic modification, nuclear arms proliferation, weaponization of space, unexploded ordnance disposal, and persecution of ethnic minorities. Assigned the Balkan country of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Mavericks researched its culture and politics and expressed the country’s position on the problem assigned to their committees. Next, they sought like-minded allies and began the process of developing and debating solutions to the problem via a draft UN Resolution.

The Maverick HMUN Team at Harvard University with Advisors Ashley Mann, Stormy Thorne, and Scott Womack.

The trip was not all conference, and the students had the opportunity to experience some of Boston’s rich history, including a portion of the Freedom Trail with Boston Common, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry monument, the burial places of Paul Revere and John Hancock, the site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s House, Old North Church, and Boston Harbor. The group also visited Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

The trip was not without challenges, however, as the Mavericks experienced the usual issues of urban travel such as closed “T” stations, hotel reservation mix-ups, baggage problems, and a cancelled return flight that left them stranded in Chicago overnight. As in the case of last year’s “COVID HMUN,” however, the team adapted to the situation with great grace and poise, and successfully overcame the obstacles.

This was the third time JMHS has been selected for this prestigious event, having also participated in 2020 and 2022. JMHS is the only high school from West Virginia that has been selected to participate in this conference in recent history, and possibly ever for the annual event that began in 1953. The students joined over 4,000 other high school students from across the

United States and overseas, including elite private schools and those that offer Model UN as a course of study rather than a club. Acceptance into this highly competitive debate competition is an acknowledgement of the excellence of our students in the YLA Model United Nations program.

Although Model United Nations is not a class at JMHS as it is in some other high schools, the students gain valuable academic experience in research, critical thinking, logic, written and verbal communication, and empathy by participating in it. The debate competition is not funded by Harvard and would not have been possible without the generosity of the Monroe County Board of Education, which approved funds from the school levy to assist with the trip, and that of the parents who allowed their children to travel and paid for a portion of the trip. Future plans for the Maverick Model UN program include hosting a local conference, participating in a revived YLA Model UN program in Charleston, and a return to Model UN Conferences in Atlanta and Boston next year. If you wish to contribute time, expertise, or funds to this endeavor please contact the Maverick Debate Coach, Dr. Scott Womack, at 304-753-5182, on Facebook Messenger, or via email at swomack@k12.wv.us.

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