PHS Students embrace the spirit of diplomacy at Model UN of U Chicago

The 10 members of Palatine High Schools innaugural team stand for a picture at MUNUC 36
The 10 members of Palatine High School’s innaugural team stand for a picture at MUNUC 36
Samantha Dolen

Diplomacy was the word repeated again and again as over 2,500 high school students became delegates representing hundreds of different nations, committees, corporations, and individuals collaborating for four days at the 36th annual Model United Nations Conference of the University of Chicago (MUNUC 36).

Joining them, were the first 10 members of Palatine High School’s Model UN team, each representing the Republic of South Africa in multiple UN committees ranging from the International Court of Justice to the High Commissioner for Refugees.

“MUNUC was an amazing experience that allowed for lots of collaboration with students from around the world while having a great time,” freshman Tessa Faltinek who experienced her first conference that weekend said. 

A primary purpose of the conference was to allow delegates to “become confident public speakers, eloquent writers, collaborative debaters, effective critical thinkers, and globally-minded future leaders,” according to Secretary-General Ariel Barnea.

Sophomore Max Riley addresses members of his delegation at the conference. Riley represented South Africa at the UN High Commissioner of Refugees where he presented ideas for combatting the global refugee crisis. (Samantha Dolen)

To transform into future bright-minded leaders, delegates faced many tough challenges by working together to pass resolutions on various topics from nuclear disarmament to the rehabilitation of prisoners worldwide. Often engaged in hours of debate and deliberation daily, they had to keep fighting to stand up for what they believed in, with the main goal of making the world a better place.

“Although it was challenging, at times hectic, and at times straight-up confusing, it was ultimately a great success,” said junior Jason Mayschack, who participated in the DISEC committee of the UN. “The work done on the resolutions shows how when great minds come together and collaborate, difficult issues the world faces such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction can suddenly become easier to understand and fix.” 

During opening ceremonies, delegates heard from Valerie Jarrett, the former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and the CEO of the Obama Foundation. Jarrett spoke about her upbringing in Shiraz, Iran, and how people from all over the world surrounded her – shaping her experiences and view of the world. 

Palatine students Karim Melek and Timothy Sakwa listen to former Presidential Advisor Valerie Jarrett as she talks about how she found her voice and used it to spark change. (Amirah Abdul)

Jarrett, the longest-serving senior adviser to a president in American history, is an icon of activism, from working for Chicago Mayor Harold Washington to the White House, she expressed her devotion to public service and called upon others to stand up for what they believed in to make the world a better place.

“Their commitment to practice the mission of the United Nations—peace, dignity, and equality on a healthy planet—through hard work, respect, and a commitment to find common ground, makes me confident that the world will be in good hands,” said Jarrett on her Instagram post. 

Activism was certainly a big part of the weekend as Palatine students got to attend the Art and Activism tour at the Art Institute of Chicago. Led by an expert guide, students participated in thoughtful discussions about the meaning behind many pieces of art made in protest. From Korean ceramics to mid-century Japanese Gutai abstraction, they were able to examine how they could use their voice to make change both at MUNUC and for the rest of their lives.

Students gather at the Art Institute of Chicago and discuss what activism means to them. Many brought up the idea of standing up for what they believe is right in the face of injustice. As Palatine High School was representing South Africa, the name Nelson Mandela came up a lot as an activist who contributed to the end of racial apartheid. (Amirah Abdul)

“This made me realize that I can be really vocal about my opinions and ideas if it is something I’m really invested in,” said junior Amirah Abdul, who participated in the Economic and Financial Committee, with freshman Logan Rill. “This conference also strengthened my leadership skills as I was able to lead a team filled with like-minded people while working towards common goals. It was truly amazing to hear the ideas delegates wanted to bring to the table all for the sake of financial freedom for women. “

Students examined the Kerry James Marshall sculpture, Africa Restored, learning and sharing about many influential African-American activists and leaders. (Amirah Abdul)

Abdul’s leadership skills were definitely on display as she, along with Logan Rill, received a verbal commendation from their committee chairs for their outstanding work.

Over those four days, it no longer seemed as if they were in a high school competition, rather, they assumed their roles of advocates for international cooperation; debating real, pressing issues while making memories and meeting people from all over the globe. 

“Though I know we only went to Chicago, the amazing people I met from China to the Dominican Republic made me realize that there is so much to still experience in this world,” Abdul said.

Jason Mayschack found comfort in the fact that these brilliant students are the future of the world and are collectively dreaming of a better, safer world for the future, as he stated, “If these brilliant students are the future of the world, then we are in good hands.

All in all, these students truly embraced the spirit of diplomacy, forging alliances, leading intercontinental blocs, and coming up with creative solutions, all in the name of creating change.

PHS’s Model UN team meets every Thursday after school in Room 344. All who are interested in joining can reach out to Dr. Samantha Dolen in the science department.

“One can not go to Chicago without being amazed by the view and landscape. I was constantly in awe at how pretty and amazing it was. Though I tried taking pictures, no camera was able to capture the beauty of the city,” said Amirah Abdul. (Amirah Abdul)
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