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Darden Middle School students learned recently that through diplomacy, people with opposing views can come together to achieve goals that benefit all involved.
Two students brought home awards at the 2018 Triangle Model United Nations Conference March 2 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Damian Farmer, a seventh-grader, won an award for best position paper, and Shy’Nya Hilliard was recognized with an award for being the most improved delegate.
The conference is modeled after the United Nations in New York.
“They try to make compromises with other countries to solve major world problems,” Damian said. “That’s very important to be able to listen to other countries because you can’t just make irrational decisions without hearing what other people have to say. The government plays a big part in what your country does, but if you don’t listen to what your people have to say and about what other countries have to say about what you think, then you can cause major problems in the world.”
Damian, who represented Brazil at the conference, said he learned that it is important to be informed and to engage the people you are trying to persuade.
“If you don’t make eye contact, they probably won’t be paying attention to what you are saying or they will probably not be listening to what you are saying and understanding what you are trying to say,” Damian said. “Communicating causes peace and it decreases the chances of anger and war in the world. That’s what I think.”
Shy’Nya said the experience enabled her to come out of her shell.
“I started to get the people that were in the room, and they started negotiating and talking to me,” Shy’Nya said.
Her work was important, as she represented South Africa and was attempting to convince other countries to sign on to the Paris climate accord.
“I was defending it,” Shy’Nya said. “It helps countries solve the issues that they have with climate change, and it helps them solve their issues in a better way and it helps the environment get better. We wrote resolutions and treaties with one another.”
Shy’Nya said the experience has now encouraged her to work in government.
“No matter your age. No matter how tall, how big, how small, you can change anything,” Shy’Nya said. “I want to be the president of the United States of America in whatever year I’m old enough. I want to get more into politics and prove myself as a person and learn how to speak to the people in a way that can affect our environment and our country.”
“If you want to be in the government, you have to learn how to debate and talk about it,” said debate team member Wisdom Bell, a seventh-grader.
Damian said that at Triangle Model UN, it was very important to be able to talk.
“You can’t change someone’s opinion by force,” Damian said. “They have to be able to hear you and get to understand what you are trying to say. We live in a democracy because we want to give the people a say.”
“You can be super smart and you can have all of the knowledge in the world, but if you have no communication skills, then you are not going to be able to go anywhere,” Damian said. “People have got to be able to hear you in order for you to make a difference.”
Team member Jenee Swinson, an eighth-grader, said her communication level got higher as a result of the experience.
“Usually I don’t talk to a lot of people and I surround myself with a smaller group, and this group was bigger and I had to prepare myself for this,” Jenee said. “I did a lot of research and had to have a lot of background knowledge on my country and a lot of details so that I can have enough to defend it. It’s important because you might end up changing your mind about something if you don’t agree with it. You will change what you think about it.”
Janasia Moody, an eighth-grader who is president of the debate team, said more than 10 North Carolina schools participated in the conference, but Darden had a distinction.
“We were the only public school there,” Moody said. “Model UN is about debating topics in the world and speaking on issues that are going on in our world today. I decided to go and participate in it because I thought it was a great chance for me to not only meet new people but also practice my people skills for the future.”
For team member Eric Jimenez, a seventh-grader, the experience taught him there are a lot of difficult things he may encounter in my life.
“If I’m going to be a lawyer, then I am going to need those public skills and speaking skills to accomplish that,” Eric said. “Everything that I learned there, I can use in life.”
“The students worked hard and it showed,” said social studies teacher Montravias King. “Conference organizers were very impressed with our students.”
King said “students were challenged to use public speaking, critical thinking, negotiation and writing skills.”
According to King, the opportunity would not have been possible without a school improvement grant Darden received through a federal program administered by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.