Three students won coveted gavels as best delegates and one earned an honourable mention as Shawnigan’s Model UN team had a superb showing at the Secondary Schools United Nations Symposium at McGill University in Montreal last week.
Desi S. received the Viola Desmond Award for Advocacy, Zach P. received the Hide Hyodo Shimuzu Award for Peacekeeping, and Audrey T. received the Sergeant Tommy Prince Award for Diplomatic Finesse, while Nikita T. received an honourable mention.
“It always feels good to win an award,” Desi said. “It shows how much they appreciate the effort you put in.”
Those four students were among 20 from Shawnigan’s Model UN program who travelled to Montreal with chaperones Mr. Paul Klassen and Mrs. Andrea Carballo for the distinguished annual conference organized by McGill undergraduate students. More than 200 McGill staff were involved in running the conference for 900 visiting high school students who presented their research to more than two dozen committees.
Desi’s award came for her presentation in a committee concerning Interpol. Desi took a course last summer about security and intelligence in the US, which was related to Interpol. Model UN, she says, is “all about having fun, learning, and working with other people to solve problems.”
Mr. Klassen adds that Model UN is unique in that it is not just about what the students take away from the program, but also what they can bring to it themselves. They need to do research, form an argument, and be prepared to engage with their peers. At SSUNS, they are rubbing shoulders with high school students from all over North America. The enthusiasm from the conference often flows back to Shawnigan with the students. This year’s delegation is already thinking about the conference Shawnigan will host next fall.
“They come back really motivated to run our Global Goals conference,” Mr. Klassen says. “It’s trickle-down inspiration.”
On their way to Montreal, the Shawnigan delegation stopped in Ottawa, where they visited the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian War Museum, and had a tour of the House of Commons arranged by the staff of Cowichan – Malahat – Langford MP Alistair MacGregor. They also toured the University of Ottawa, and met with Shawnigan grad Charles Wolfe ’18 (Lake’s), who now works for the federal agency Export Development Canada.
While in Ottawa, the students met with Lucie Vincent, the widow of Anthony Vincent ’57 (Groves’), a former Canadian ambassador to Peru, who helped liberate several hostages when the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima was occupied by guerillas in 1996. Mr. Klassen and the students presented Mrs. Vincent with a Shawnigan scarf and a framed photo of Mr. Vincent in front of the Main Building when he was a prefect in 1957.
The highlights for the students mostly came from their time in Montreal, both in and out of SSUNS. Both Desi and Zach commented about the culture — particularly the food — that they got to enjoy in Montreal.
“The time we spent in Montreal was enjoyable to say the least,” Zach said. “From walking up Mount Royal and seeing a wonderful view of the city from above, to visiting the famous Time Out Market for a meal. The conference was definitely the highlight of the trip. It was well organized and engaging. The spirited debate in my committee was memorable and enjoyable throughout the three days of the conference. I'm definitely hopeful that I will be able to attend SSUNS 2023 and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Model UN.”
While at McGill, the students connected with several Shawnigan alumni who are now attending the university, including Lea Charron-Duhamel ’18 (Groves’), Ryan Smith ’21 (Lake's), Nnenna Onwukwe ’20 (Strathcona), Callum Ceyssens ’17 (Lonsdale’s), and Karimah Naguib ’12 (Renfrew). Owen Cumming ’18 (Duxbury), an all-star scrum-half on the McGill men’s rugby team that will be in Vancouver later this month for nationals, sat down with Ella H., who is thinking about extending her own rugby career into the post-secondary ranks.
The Model UN students have another trip still to come this school year as they will attend the Vancouver MUN Conference in February.