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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton Model UN students compete at national assembly for 20th straight year

May 08, 2018 02:59PM ● By Julie Slama

Inside the United Nations in New York City, Brighton High Model UN passed several resolutions at the national assembly. (Jim Hodges/Brighton High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

For 20 straight years, Brighton High Model United Nations students have taken part in the National High School Model UN assembly, where more than 5,000 students from 75 countries participate in the world’s largest high school conference. 

“It’s an international, invitation-only event where students have the opportunity to go into the real United Nations to compete,” said coach Jim Hodges, who received a 20-year lapel pin during the New York trip in early March. “The competition is fierce.”

Brighton, which has won 18 of the past 19 state titles, is the only Utah high school to compete. Hodges said that many of the students who compete are from prep or elite schools worldwide.

“We were assigned Australia, but Brighton students would do well with any country. We passed a lot of resolutions our students wrote,” he said.

Model UN is an educational extra-curricular activity for students to role-play as delegates to the UN to simulate committees where they learn about diplomacy, international relations and the United Nations. Through Model UN, students learn diplomatic skills, public speaking, teamwork, writing, research and become more concerned citizens, Hodges said.

Before students compete, they research their assigned country’s positions in human rights, the environment, economics, UNICEF[AC1] , women’s voices, disarmament, children’s issues and more, he said. Then, through 15-page papers on the topic, the students create their stand.

“Before we go, the papers are submitted and they have the research and knowledge to push a resolution,” he said. “It’s not debate, but it’s working together to find a compromise and resolution." 

While in New York, not only did the students compete and tour the United Nations[AC2]  building, where they listened to a UN diplomat speak about disarmament and world peace in the general assembly chamber, but they were also able to take in the musical “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, attend the opera “La Boheme” at the Lincoln Center, listen to jazz at a jazz club, see the Statue of Liberty and get in other sightseeing in the midst of a nor’easter storm.

Principal Tom Sherwood joined the students for the national competition for the first time.

“It was a very eye-opening experience to see Brighton High students discussing foreign policy issues with other students from around the world,” he said. “The time and effort that was dedicated to the endeavor as well as the expertise exhibited by the Brighton High delegation was impressive. They represented our state and our school very well.”

Brighton’s Model UN program started under David Chavez in the school’s first year. John McMorris coached the team after Chavez prior to Hodges.

“It was a well-established program and the students know what to do,” Hodges said about his 80-member team that was slated to compete for the state title April 17 at the University of Utah. “We work as a team. Many of the students have interest in pursuing a career in international relations."

Hodges said that many former students have become professors, teachers, lawyers or have gone to work for the state department or in international relations. Some, who have become engineers or excelled in other fields, attribute their public speaking to Model UN, he said.

“When kids come back after they graduate, they say the skills they learned in Model UN apply to life,” he said. 

Earlier this year, Brighton students competed at two conferences, one at Utah State University and the other at Brigham Young University.