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Over 50 Fridley High School and Fridley Middle School students attended the Youth in Government (YIG) Model United Nations Conference from April 5-7, 2018 at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center. This conference is part of the YMCA’s YIG program, which provides experiential government learning opportunities to students in grades 7-12.
Model United Nations is a simulation in which students represent United Nations member states and meet to find solutions to common world issues. Participation in this world government simulation allows students to practice the arts of compromise and diplomacy, while finding answers to tough questions, and respecting opposing points of view.
Prior to the conference, students research their assigned country and complete a ‘status report’ so all members fully understand the country’s origin and current state. Research aspects include major wars and conflicts, geography, economy, natural resources, culture and more. Students also write position papers which help them prepare for discussion in their assigned committees. The paper topics are based on those discussed by actual United Nations committees and delegates. Some of the topics discussed this year included surveillance and the right to privacy, access to safe water and sanitation, and genetically modified organisms in international trade.
According to YIG advisor Jessica Schuette, Model United Nations is an excellent opportunity for students to engage in debates about global issues in a realistic out-of-classroom experience.
“It makes these issues real and asks students to learn about and even debate those issues from the perspective of another country, which can be difficult if it does not match their own feelings,” Schuette said.
She added that Model United Nations, as well as other YIG programs, is youth-led, meaning that the conference is led by appointed and elected high school students and college-age former participants of the program.
“Many of the choices for the conference are decided by a steering committee made up of student participants, putting young people in the position to make the conference their own,” Schuette said. “Also, with over 900 students registered this year, it is a great opportunity for our students to meet others from all over the state and make connections.”
The Fridley YIG program is popular among high school and middle school students, boasting one of the largest delegations in the state. Participation in YIG allows students to develop leadership, public speaking and research skills, as well as receive a valuable civics education.