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Students tackle tough questions as Model UN returns

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Students tackle tough questions as Model UN returns
Student delegates listen to a speaker during a Model UN session at Carlton Comprehensive High School on Wednesday, March 28. Students from Shellbrook, Martensville, and Carlton and St. Mary high schools in Prince Albert took part. -- Submitted photo.

Katelynn Tait has a dilemma.

For the next few hours, the Grade 10 Carlton Comprehensive High School student and her compatriots have to find a way to end the war in Ukraine, establish a peacekeeping force, create a war reparation policy, and help non-combatants in the war zone. Oh, they also have to do it by the end of the school day.

It’s a difficult job for the most skilled politicians and diplomats, but students from around the Prince Albert area took their best shot at it as part of the annual Model UN meeting.

“I’ve always been really into politics, even from a really young age, and I’ve always liked debate,” Tait says. “I figured this was a perfect way to combine both of them and expand my horizons. This is a great thing to put on resumes too, and it drew me in quite quickly. I ended up really enjoying it and I’ll definitely be doing it next year.”

Students from four schools created 26 delegations for the event. They sought to find resolutions while representing the interests of countries like Iran, India, Costa Rica, and Belarus.

Tait says the format challenges students to research positions and opinions they don’t hold themselves. That’s especially true in her case. She was one of two representatives from Kyrgyzstan, a nation that typically falls in the Russian sphere of influence, and has seen their trade exports to Russia boom since the start of the invasion.

“I was supporting Russia in the Russia-Ukraine war, even though those aren’t my personal beliefs,” she says. “I still got to see the arguments and argue those points. You get to be better at answering impromptu questions. It really keeps you on your toes.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was one of two topics students debated when they met on Tuesday. The other focused on global warming and environmental protection.

As a 4-H member, Tait is used to speaking in public, but the task of standing up and addressing the room as a delegate added a bit of weight to an otherwise routine action.

“When the actual week rolled around I was so nervous,” she says. “I thought I was going to choke when I was speaking. I’ve always enjoyed public speaking … but it’s in a different setting with different people and it’s new. All new experiences make people a little nervous I think.”

Tuesday’s meeting at Carlton marked a resurgence for the Model UN. The previous few years have been challenging, as cancellations and postponements caused by COVID caused student participation to sag.

This year, more than 50 students participated, forcing event organizers to move to a larger venue than originally planned.

Kelly Klassen, a Carlton teacher and model UN supervisor, says it’s a nice problem to have.

“When it was larger back, I don’t know how many years ago, it filled the cafeteria,” he says. “It’s a good starting point. We’re growing.”

Klassen said teachers in the Prince Albert area have done a great job promoting the program. That’s led to an influx of Grade 9 and 10 students, like Tait, who have help revitalize the meetings.

“They love to debate,” he says. “They love to have those conversations about world issues. Me, personally, in my group of kids really like and are engaged in current events and have great opinions, so I think this is a way for them to express those skills they have.”