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Spring Valley team visits Paris for Model United Nations conference

A group of Spring Valley High School students recently met with others from around the globe in Paris to find solutions to world problems. These diplomats formed committees, debated, deliberated and passed resolutions.

Their efforts did not change global policy, but they learned a lot about it. Model United Nations is, after all, pretend.

The team from Spring Valley High School, 3750 S. Buffalo Drive, won an honorable mention for its performance Dec. 2-4 at the Paris Model United Nations conference. Participants came from 65 schools in 25 countries on four continents. Spring Valley was one of four schools from the United States to attend.

This was Spring Valley’s first year with a Model United Nations team, and the Paris conference was the first the team attended.

“I realized how difficult politics were and how difficult it is to solve problems,” said Spring Valley senior Nathan Daly. “It’s not as easy as it seems. In some issues, there’s not a right answer.”

Students were asked to re-evaluate the role of UN peacekeeping troops in conflicts, curtail illegal immigration, protect human rights of immigrants, deal with North Korea and control the trade of weapons, among other issues.

Daly and his classmates represented Italy, Serbia and Costa Rica in 15 committees. Teachers Ian Salzman and Lisa Ancona are advisers for the club, which meets Mondays and Saturdays.

Salzman, an English teacher, participated in MUN for four years in high school and was excited to get the program started locally.

“I don’t think there’s any better experience in terms of public speaking, diplomacy and collaborating with others,” Salzman said. “It’s kind of competitive. Kids are there to compromise on issues, but it is competitive. All of that is very good for our kids.

“They spend hours researching countries and topics. They write proposals and resolutions. There’s this wide variety of skills, all of which are transferable to college.”

There also are intangible benefits, Daly explained. He and nearly 20 other students visited the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, medieval castles and other historical sites. Most of the students traveled to France a week before the competition as part of an exchange partnership that Spring Valley has with a school in Reims, France, about 90 miles east of Paris.

“I gained the experience of travel outside the U.S. and what life is like over there,” Daly said. “It’s very different … it was a weird experience. We had to take the train everywhere, and we weren’t used to doing that. Their style of living was different; it was much smaller. It wasn’t easy to go down the street to get food.”

Students fundraised and received scholarships to pay for the trip. The school also helped cover the cost. Salzman estimated the trip cost about $1,500 per student. If funding is available, he would like students to attend the conference again next year.

He said he would also like to compete locally but is not aware of other MUN groups in the state. The school’s next MUN competition is scheduled for May at the University of California, Irvine.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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