BY ALEXA KOVACS
On the weekend of March 8, 9, and 10, eleven high school students participated in the 61st annual Berkeley Model United Nations conference at the University of California Berkeley. This is the third conference that our school has taken a part of this year. The previous conferences included Bruin MUN at the University of California Los Angeles and Gauchos MUN at University of California Santa Barbara. We, the students, have been participating in the Berkeley MUN conference for fifteen years now. The conference was three days long filled with rigorous debate in the gorgeous San Francisco/Berkeley area.
Before participating in the conference our students visited Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan Armenian School in San Francisco. The principal Grace Andonian opened her arms and made us feel like family, inviting us to spend time with the children and enjoy lunch with them. There we interacted with the younger children and had the privilege to introduce Model UN to the eighth grade students and discuss current world topics. We also had the privilege to meet Elizabeth Chouldjian, who is a member of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). With Chouldjian we discussed current topics that were relevant to the topics that we would be discussing in conference. Chouldjian encouraged us to join the ANCA and help the Armenian community and the “HAY TAD.” She persuaded us to volunteer and to make sure that the works of the previous generations of ANCA members are continued. She stressed that we can spread the “HAY TAD” through participating in MUN conferences and educate others about the Armenian struggle and what we are trying to accomplish.
After the empowering thoughts and ideas by Chouldjian, who emphasized how important MUN is to help drive the works of the ANCA and the “HAY TAD”, the students went to the conference at the university. There they met 1,800 other delegates from around the world and after three days of rigorous debate were able to “solve problems” pertaining to the world. They were able to gain new insight from other cultures and races debating with students all around the world about topics ranging from the Syrian conflict to female infanticide.
Our eleventh grade students Shawnt Karakozian and Farah Kandah, who were a part of the World Bank committee as representatives of Belgium, discussed the topics of Open-Loan Proposals and Anti-Corruption Efforts in Developing Countries. The two delegates won the “Outstanding Delegate” (second place) award, for their hard work. Arteen Galstian, also a junior, participated in the European Union committee, representing Belgium, discussed the topics of the European Debt Crisis and A Divided Cyprus. Arteen won the “Accommodation” (third place) award.
One important mentor that we had the honor to work with during this conference was Garen Bostanian, a Ferrahian alumni who not only continued his MUN career outside of high school, but works hard every day for the Armenian community and the ANCA. He became an intern for the ANCA during the summer of 2012 and carried out the jobs that Chouldjian explained to us at the middle school. Garen started participating in the MUN conferences in ninth grade. He found a passion for debating and trying to find solutions for any problem given to him. He decided that his MUN career would not stop after high school; he participated in many conferences since graduating in 2011. The most prestigious conference he took part in was the conference at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 4,000 college students from around the world came together and participated in one of the most rigorous conferences offered to college students. There he debated two topics that are important not only in the world, but specifically to the Armenian community: Sovereignty, Intervention, and Syria, and more importantly the Conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Garen was able to bring his knowledge from his own history, past, and experiences while debating these topics and stressing the importance of finding a solution for these problems that are so relevant in the Armenian community today.
Model UN provides students with a new approach at understanding problems not only in the Armenian community, but around the world, and we encourage our students to be involved and have the opportunity to solve the current world issues. It’s a fun, yet highly educational way to take world problems and make them interesting to any student in high school.