Edina High School social studies teacher Betsy Nimmo started a Model UN program for students who were interested in international relations and wanted to improve on certain skills, like communication and diplomacy. Since its start in 2009, the program has grown in size from a few initial members to over 200 participants.
Nickie McKeever has been a co-advisor for the Model UN. team since 2011 when he began to assist Nimmo in working with the kids and encouraging them as they built their proposals and competed in conferences.
“I enjoy watching students grow their confidence in difficult skill areas like diplomacy and public speaking, and I love the fact that Model UN. opens so many doors for students to explore the work,” McKeever says.
The basic idea of the program is that each student is assigned a particular country, and they become a diplomatic delegate who works with other countries to identify real life issues and come up with solutions for world problems such as terrorism, war, world hunger, poverty and environmental issues. The students have to prepare formal speeches and write a paper describing their position on a topic. They also work with other students to research and write about their solutions.
“Students need to recognize how interconnected our world is, and how the international community needs to work together to solve global problems,” McKeever says. “This understanding will give them the perspective and skills they need to interact positively with fellow human beings in an increasingly complex world.”
Model UN. does not discriminate or prevent anyone from joining. So there are a variety of kids with strengths in different areas. There is an application process for the competitive team which travels around the country to places such as Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and Berkeley, Calif. to take part in national conferences. Interested students must prove they are dedicated and fully prepared to be part of the rigorous program that requires lots of skills and time management.
“I appreciate how inclusive our Model UN. team is, which is a testament to our student leadership and our team’s overall commitment to being a community,” McKeever says.
Cheryl Dulas is a parent heavily involved in the program since both of her kids were participants. Her son, Matt, was on the organizing team for the first high school–run Model UN. conference in Minnesota, and her daughter, Marissa, served on the leadership team for the program.
Dulas has witnessed how the program has molded her children into successful young adults who are knowledgeable and care about the way people interact. They’ve experienced how people can accomplish and solve world issues through collaboration.
“The program helped them develop confidence in public speaking, and honed their skills in research, critical thinking and working collaboratively, which will serve them well in their careers, relationships and future endeavors,” Dulas says.
This program continues to be a part of Edina’s extracurricular programming and will hopefully lead to more student engagement to help make the world better not only for themselves but for future generations.
“Model UN. is especially powerful for young people because it gives them the confidence they need to believe they can truly change the world in a positive way,” McKeever says.