On Wednesday, February 26, eighteen juniors crowded their way on a red-eye flight to New York City, ready to take on the five hour journey from traffic jams and late February sun, to the chilling winds and skyscrapers of the big apple. These Eagle Rock students stepped onto Seventh Street armed with the diplomacy and confidence to conquer the 2020 National High School Model United Nations Conference.
For Diego Wong, who represented Eagle Rock in the World Health Assembly, debating solutions to maternal mortality in developing students, Model UN is defined by a unique challenge of “working within the boundaries of a nation that you may not necessarily have understood.” In conferences, where competition can be cutthroat and stakes are high, successful delegates truly encompass their country, absorbing policy information, and country history that they can fact-drop upon request. Eagle Rock delegates were challenged with representing Ireland and its position in each of their respective committees and topics, which ranged from addressing issues of religious extremism, to the situation in Africa’s Sahel region.
So how were students from a school in Northeast Los Angeles meant to truly become representatives of Ireland? Eagle Rock was lucky enough to partner with the Irish consulates stationed in Los Angeles, Orla Keen and Barry Guihen through the My Global LA initiative, which connects foreign diplomats in Los Angeles with high school students to foster an international community at an early age. Keen and Guihen were able to guide the club through its preparation for the conference while at home in LA, and they visited two meetings, where the diplomats answered questions on Irish policy and provided resources to help delegates understand the workings of diplomacy and effective solution research.
Eagle Rock extended these partnerships with Ireland while in New York, as well, where the club met with the permanent Irish Mission to the United Nations Eagle Rock Ḿodel UN president, Nicholas Padilla describes the experience as a chance to “learn about diplomats’ daily lives and specifically Irish country policy.” He emphasizes the benefits of representing Ireland in simulations of UN committees where tensions are high and solutions are often met with urgency or haste. Padilla explains that, “The Irish diplomats we visited shared the advantages of being a country that is neutral, westernized, yet experienced in being discriminated against... This ultimately helped us approach our diplomatic tactics from a different perspective while in conference.”
To top off this internationalism with a sweet reward, the opening ceremonies for the NHSMUN 2020 conference were held in the GA Plenary hall of the infamous UN building itself. There, delegates had the opportunity to sit in the very seats that country representatives and diplomats had filled, while listening to guest speakers and NHSMUN staff officially open the conference.
In addition to the tedious work and diplomatic negotiation of the committee, Eagle Rock students had the chance to explore the sights of a new city and initiate friendships with students from all over the world. The group traveled to Greenwich Village for dinner, Washington Square Park, the 9/11 memorial, the Guggenheim Museum, and Central Park, many seeing NYC for the first time. Here in California, both the culture of Model UN conferences and daily life presented drastic differences compared to the fast-paced, yet determined lifestyle in New York. Padilla describes social MUN events as especially competitive, more focused on overpowering other delegates' voices than reaching true negotiation and compromise. What New York offered was a more realistic look into the functions of diplomacy and international relations, especially with conference rooms populated with students from all across the globe.
For many, the best part of the conference was the friendships and bonds that were fostered between students from all over the world. Nearly half of the attendees came from abroad, and committee sessions were populated with students from Oman, Indonesia, Mexico, Venezuela, Italy, and other foreign countries. Padilla commented that his favorite part of the conference, by far, was meeting other delegates and building on his love for language and international connectedness.
Model UN extends a huge thank you to their club sponsor, Ms. Clark for making the experience possible. President Padilla best sums up everyone’s immense gratitude to her, “Ms. Clark-- I would just like to say that it continuously amazes me how much of your time you lend to us and the numerous clubs that you help run.” With big hopes for next year, and the spark of bigger and better plans fueling this firehouse of a club, next year’s adventures will no doubt live up to the incredible time spent in New York.