Students gain global perspective

Krystle Wagner • Mar 4, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Grand Haven and Spring Lake students are gaining global perspectives on real-world issues.

Whether it’s child labor laws or chemical weapons, local Model United Nations participants are researching and presenting various countries’ views during meetings and conferences.

After months of preparation, 12 members of the Grand Haven High School Model U.N. team will conclude their competitive season when they attend a conference in New York in a few weeks.

While the GHHS team has participated in conferences, it’s the first time they will attend the one in New York, which is widely regarded as the premier Model U.N. conference in the country, said Jason Klinger, Model U.N. adviser and GHHS teacher.

While at conferences, students research an issue, develop the position of the country they represent, participate in caucuses and build alliances with other countries. The groups develop, debate and amend resolutions to find a solution for the issue.

The Grand Haven team, which consists of students from both Grand Haven and Spring Lake high schools, will represent Finland and have an opportunity to meet the Finnish ambassador.

The Spring Lake Middle School Model U.N. team recently competed at a one-day conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Eighth-grader Kailey Kuhlman won a verbal recommendation in her committee, which simulated UNICEF.

Some of the team’s shyer students also spoke up, which Klinger said was one of the best parts of the middle school conference.

“I saw great strides in students’ confidence in just a single day, and it made me so proud,” he said.

Throughout the competition season, the GHHS team also participated in conferences by the University of Michigan and University of Chicago. In the coming weeks, they will participate in a conference at MSU.

Over the years, the GHHS team has grown from about a dozen to almost 80 students who have attended at least six meetings this year. Twelve of those students are from Spring Lake High School.

Both Lakeshore and Spring Lake middle school teams have 8-10 students each.

Since Model U.N. runs throughout the school year, Klinger said some students only participate in the club for part of the year, as they also have other activities they participate in, such as Science Olympiad, robotics, theater and sports.

Klinger said the club is a place where students feel safe, and he’s “thrilled” it appeals to kids from various backgrounds.

“If you think of theater as the natural place for students who love English classes, Model U.N. is a great fit for kids who dig history, government or economics,” he said.

SLHS seniors Ana West and Thomas Zambiasi also assist the Spring Lake Middle School team. West, a two-year member of the Grand Haven team, said it’s fun to watch the younger students take it seriously. She said it gives her hope for the future of the club and for the community.

Spring Lake seventh-grader Tayden Glore said she likes Model U.N. because she likes debating, and the topics they’re given are real issues. Glore, 12, said she likes seeing the different perspectives from other countries.

“It’s like trying to solve problems,” she said.

Seventh-grader Linnea Nordman said she’s enjoying learning about the different views, but it can be challenging to argue in favor of a viewpoint if it’s something she doesn’t agree with personally.

Spring Lake eighth-grader Jacob Hall said Model U.N. has helped him learn how to effectively convey information.

GHHS senior and club president Frank “Fraxl” Angers said that though they might not go on to become diplomats, Model U.N. helps students develop the ability to understand different perspectives. 

Angers, 17, plans to be involved in the Model U.N. team at the University of Michigan. While he plans on studying engineering, his involvement in the club has also made him consider adding a global element to his education and future.

Klinger said it’s rewarding to watch students grow as young adults and become leaders on the team.

“The way we’ve grown, the ways in which we’ve improved our competitive edge, and the ways we continue to stretch ourselves as a club are as much a result of their efforts as anything I do,” he said. “Our club’s cabinet officers really put in an enormous effort, and it’s their work that makes the Model U.N. experience for our many students. Even beyond that, we have many leaders who hold no title, but still put their heart and soul into the success of the entire team.”

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