HHS Model UN Team Earns Bronze at UMass Lowell Conference

A previous group photograph of the Haverhill High School Model UN Team. (Photograph courtesy of Haverhill Public Schools.)

Chances are, the Syrian refugee crisis and the future of NATO aren’t likely to be of great interest to the average Haverhill High School student. Then again, this group isn’t comprised of the average HHS student.

A team of Haverhill students immersed itself in these issues and more in preparation for the 12th annual UMass Lowell High School Model United Nations Conference, which took place April 5 through 7 on the Lowell campus.

Haverhill’s team represented Sweden, Germany, Malaysia, Uruguay, India and the United States. Topics included the refugee crisis, the threat of ISIL, global climate change and the role of NATO.

For years Haverhill, as a team, has placed in the top three, and this year is no different. Of 10 teams, Haverhill placed third, maintaining its reputation as one of the top high school Model UN teams in the region. This result was especially gratifying because many students were new to the team this year, said Zachary Simmons, the HHS Model UN Team’s adviser.

Simmons, who teaches history and international relations, said veteran Model UN student team members guided the new students who, even though they might have been new to the HHS program, are not all new to the Model UN experience.

“Several members of our team had their roots in our HillieMUN program,” Simmons explained. Founded by former HHS student Alejandro Lopez, the Hillie Model United Nations program reaches out to the city’s middle schools to give students an introduction to the Model UN experience. Interested students from the middle schools converge on HHS once a year to compete against each other as mock UN delegates from a variety of countries.

The HHS Model UN team members organize and run the two-day HillieMUN conference, serving as committee chairmen and ambassadors. This gives them leadership experience, which comes in handy as they advance in the Model UN program. For example, Lopez, now a student at UMass Lowell, was chairman of the UML Conference’s NATO Committee, where some Haverhill students argued earlier this month as delegates from their assigned countries about the options for NATO’s future participation in world events.

The HHS Model United Nations Team has four components:

  • Middle School Model UN Conference (HillieMUN)
  • UMass Lowell Conference
  • National Model United Nations at the UN in New York
  • HillieMUN Team

The HillieMUN Team is a new program led by Simmons and Elizabeth Briggs, in which middle school students compete as a single team against other middle school programs. The first conference will be next month in Newburyport.

In February, the HHS Model UN Team took part in the National Model United Nations Conference at the United Nations in New York. The team was assigned to represent the delegation from Sweden. This annual conference is run by the United Nations and is designed to give students from around the world an in-depth experience that includes sitting in the UN General Assembly room and occupying the actual seats that the delegates from their assigned country use. Some students even get the chance to argue a position from the UN General Assembly podium.

All the teams are student-run, Simmons said. Students coach each other to research and write position papers, which are normally from two to nine pages long. They coach each other on how to collaborate, speak in public, and use the rules of debate. Depending on the conference, they will work with other students from around the region, around the country and around the world.

Simmons and the adviser from Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School are UMass Lowell alumni and its Model UN Program, and helped advise UML on founding its high school conference.

“I would like to thank Mr. Simmons,” said HHS Principal Beth Kitsos. “Because of his efforts, this program continues to grow in popularity with our students as they hone their skills in researching and debating. (All of us are proud) that they continue to win or place in the various competitions.”