Dakota students Reghan Verellen, left, and Natalie Leach, right, cast votes during the Model UN conference May 19.

Dakota students Reghan Verellen, left, and Natalie Leach, right, cast votes during the Model UN conference May 19.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Dakota hosts first Model UN conference

Aims to grow clubs in Macomb County

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published May 30, 2018

 Dakota High School students Maya Kalsi, left center, and Cristiana Rosa, right center, debate with other students during a Model United Nations conference May 19 at the high school.

Dakota High School students Maya Kalsi, left center, and Cristiana Rosa, right center, debate with other students during a Model United Nations conference May 19 at the high school.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Dakota Model United Nations club and a regional Model UN organization are hoping a recent conference in Macomb Township will help grow the concept in other Macomb County schools.

The Metro Detroit Model United Nations Organization held an event May 19 at Dakota that saw seven teams compete in a mock United Nations where students represented different countries and worked together to try and resolve global issues.

Dakota, however, was the only team representing a Macomb County school, and Mitchell Dennis, secretary general of the Metro Detroit Model UN, said this was their first event in the county. The other teams were mostly from Oakland County and a team even came from Ohio.

Dennis said he is only aware of one other Model UN club in Macomb County, although it could not be reached about the event at Dakota, and he hopes to reach more schools and get more students interested.

“There are some high schools that are known as sports high schools by a lot of people in the community,” Dennis said. “It can be positive to have other non-sports activities being successful and Macomb Dakota is a good example of that. Principal Paul Sibley is a big proponent of their Model UN team.”

Metro Detroit Model UN was founded in May 2014 mainly by students from Walled Lake Western, where Dennis attended. Now, it is run by volunteers who are in college, many who graduated from Dakota.

Dennis said there are around 30 teams in Oakland County, where conferences are usually held, so the organization wanted to expand further into Macomb County. Around 100 students participated in the event on May 19.

The way the conference is run is the students are assigned a country and placed into committees. The event at Dakota had four committees and there were a number of topics that the students then tried to pass resolutions on that benefited their country.

For example, Dennis said one of the topics dealt with the nuclear weapons in North Korea, so students had to try and pass resolutions by studying up on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, as well as their country’s stance on the issues.

Kara Lukens, a history teacher at Dakota and a co-advisor for the school’s Model UN club, said Model UN gives students a chance to learn more about global issues as well as understand countries they may not be familiar with.

“It is a different type of challenge for them, as they are required to research about current issues and take stances,” Lukens said. “They have to understand their country’s position, and a lot of times it is a position they don’t necessarily agree with personally. And then they have to work with other teenagers to come to a consensus.”

Lukens said the Model UN club at Dakota started about a decade ago after her and a colleague went to a social studies conference and saw a presentation on Model UN conferences. The club started with about 10 students, she said, but has grown to around 35 kids.

Lukens said having a conference at Dakota was a great way to get more kids to see what the Model UN is all about and saving money by staying close to home. 

“Unless you have the ability to see it in action or participate, you don’t truly understand what it is,” Lukens said. “It is not easily accessible like football or basketball. So we have had practice simulations during school and involve ninth graders to get them more exposed to it.”

Moving forward, Lukens said they want to invite students from other Macomb County schools to Dakota to participate in a type of Model UN scrimmage, as well as school advisors, to show them what the club is all about.

Dennis said his organization has reached out to the Macomb County Intermediate School District about getting in contact with schools. Not only does Model UN provide another activity for students, but Dennis said he learned a lot of practical skills from being part of it in high school.

“I think social studies, for a lot of students, is dry and boring when the teacher gets up and lectures,” he said. “Some students learn through the book, but (in Model UN), you get up and have to articulate yourself. It improves your public speaking skills, thinking on your feet and, for me, it made me more confident.”

For more information about the Metro Detroit Model United Nations Organization, contact Dennis at secgen@metrodetroitmun.org.