In our schools — Making their case before the nations (803) 771-8306November 24, 2013 

Richland Northeast Model UN advisor Lynn Washington discusses the opening policy speeches with team members Christopher Kannaday, Wesley Skidmore and Paxton Haven.


— A group of Richland Northeast High School students will be exercising some international diplomacy this week as they travel across the globe.

Five members of the school’s award-winning Model United Nations team are on their way to Budapest, Hungary to participate in the Yale Model Government Europe 2013 conference. The team members left the states Sunday with their adviser, Lynn Washington, for the conference that begins Thanksgiving Day.

“This was a special invitation,” Washington said. “It was a special chance for us to go to this conference. The students are coming to this conference from all over the world.”

The Yale Model Government Europe 2013 conference is similar to the Model UN events in which schools are assigned specific countries and topics and must debate the topics to resolve certain problems. This week’s competition will offer an added challenge, as the students will be given a specific crisis they will have to manage on the spot.

“It’s going to really come down to their critical thinking, how fast they think on their feet and how they can use their leadership skills to influence others,” said Washington, who has led the Richland 2 school to 24 first place awards and six second place awards in Model United Nations competitions over the past 31 years.

Richland Northeast students Emily Nielsen, Kevin O’Dell, Wesley Skidmore, Paxton Haven and Christopher Kannaday are representing the school this week. Each student has been named a minister of one of 12 European Union countries the week’s simulation is focusing on and have been assigned a topic to debate in their country’s cabinet.

But after the first session, the conference will go into crisis mode, and each minister will join others holding the same positions to solve the crisis. The students know only that the crisis will involve some sort of health issue.

“The conference itself will be interesting because we will be interacting with delegates from around the world,” said Nielsen, president of Richland Northeast’s Model United Nations team. “The language barrier will be a unique challenge to overcome. While the conference is held in English, many delegates who attend them are not necessarily fluent.”

This is the third year of the Yale Model Government Europe event, and Washington said the five students are among the strongest on the school’s Model United Nations debate team. The team recently participated in the Model UN fall conference in Atlanta and will be participating in another event in the spring in New York.

“Our ability to give effective speeches and present unique solutions to international issues makes us an effective delegation,” O’Dell said.

The students expect their past experiences and preparation to pay off this week.

“We have been preparing for some time,” Haven said. “I believe we’ll be more than adequately prepared.”

The group hopes to take in as much of Budapest as possible during their visit. Plans are for a traditional Hungarian dinner, the operetta “Romeo and Juliet,” a folk dance performance, a visit to Vienna, Austria, and visits to the many sites and museums in Budapest.

“I am looking forward to experiencing Hungarian culture,” Nielsen said. “While the nation is becoming increasingly Western, it will be interesting to see what customs remain from the nation’s time under a communist regime.”

The team is scheduled to return to Columbia on Dec. 2.

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