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What is Model UN for Students?

Flags line the lawn in front of the United Nations, which works closely with Model UN programs

The United Nations is “the one place on Earth where all the world’s nations can gather together, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions that benefit all of humanity.” Every year, the UN General Assembly hosts a debate, where world leaders discuss pressing and relevant topics, like climate change.

You don’t have to wait until you’re president to get a seat at the UN. Middle school and high school students can join Model UN (MUN). Schools organize Model UN conferences, where teams from multiple schools come together. Conferences allow MUN students the chance to test out their negotiating skills in a simulation that’s as close to the real UN summit as possible. 

Each student or team of students represents a specific country and has to advocate for their country’s needs, while also working with the other countries’ representatives. True to real life, the students must balance compromising with other nations, while also doing what’s best for their own citizens.

Perfect for competitive students with political aspirations, Model UN teaches public speaking, how to craft persuasive arguments, and teamwork. Members develop a better understanding of politics and timely world topics. 

How Does Model UN Work?

Each year hundreds of thousands of students participate in Model United Nations. The United Nations works with Model UN to ensure the simulations are as true-to-life as possible. “ It does this by sharing first-hand knowledge about the work of the UN at Model UN conferences; providing guidance with organizers to create accurate and authentic simulations; and encouraging Model UN clubs to take concrete action to support UN values.”

During summits, students can earn individual or delegation awards. Individual awards fall into three categories: 

  • Commendation

  • Outstanding

  • Best Delegate. 

According to Mira Costa High School, a Commendation recognizes a delegate for great work and skills in debate. “It typically means that they were within the top ten delegates in a given committee.” 

The next most prestigious award is the Outstanding Delegate award, which is given to the top three to four delegates in the committee. Finally, the Best Delegate award is “ given to the delegate who performs, prepares, and is the most knowledgeable in the entire committee.”

What Happens at a Model UN Conference?

At Model UN conferences, everyone must dress and act professionally, just as though they were at a real UN summit. This teaches them how to act in a formal business environment. During the summit, students debate various topics and have to stand up for their countries’ needs. 

Tensions can run high when a group of people with different goals come together, so students also have to develop the emotional intelligence to regulate their own emotions, as well as have empathy for where other countries are coming from. 

Many of our LeadYouth mentors participated in Model UN in school. The club helped them develop the leadership skills we look for in our peer mentors, and aligns closely with the 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. We base all LeadYouth leadership training on these principles.

At LeadYouth, we encourage our students to engage in activities that develop their leadership skills in and out of the classroom. If your student just joined Model UN, we can help them get the most out of the experience, by preparing them for their first summit, improving their public speaking skills, and helping them practice leadership skills. Find out if a LeadYouth membership is right for your child. 


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