By Alina Issakhanian
Granada Hills Charter’s (GHC) nationally-ranked Model United Nations (MUN) team is the place to be, whether you have an interest in international relations, or you want a fun activity to participate in after school. The MUN team has attended multiple conferences in North America over the years and is continuing to thrive even in the midst of a global pandemic.
In my humble opinion, everyone should try their hand at MUN. The excitement of conferences, expansion of knowledge on world issues, friendly environment, and supportive team create an opportunity one cannot simply pass up. On our team, there is a place for everyone. Students of all levels and interests will quickly find that MUN is not only about politics, but involves other world issues like climate change, cybersecurity, poverty, and a myriad of other topics. As our captains tell us, we cannot be oblivious to the world around us, especially in 2020. It is of utmost important to pay attention to the world and understand what is happening outside of our little bubble.
“There is a misconception that, at its core, MUN is only about politics. MUN for me personally is an expression of people’s identity and what they are ideally striving to achieve in the world and their communities around them. That’s what makes MUN so special to me. It propels each individual to be more conscious of who they are as well as encouraging him or her to play a part in sparking change in the greater world,” Borhan Safaei, senior and co-captain of the MUN team, said.
Personally, I enjoy the political aspect of MUN, whether that is learning how policies are made and debated or how compromises are discussed. However, there is so much more to MUN. The MUN team does not just focus on preparing for conferences; we focus on bettering ourselves and helping each other become great public speakers, communicators, researchers, and delegates.
“A lot of the preparation for meetings and conferences has to do with what we as leaders think we need to do but also any issues we see. If kids are struggling with something, maybe we need to focus on that. We look at the different talents of each student and take their strengths and weaknesses and use that to build them into something competition-worthy, but ultimately it isn’t about awards but being satisfied with your performance in a conference,” junior and co-captain Sofia Kirchen said.
Speaking from personal experience, MUN can be incredibly beneficial and transformative in developing public speaking and conversational skills. It is really interesting to see some of the students who are new to the team grow within just a few months. MUN has also given me so many friends, some international and some from right here at GHC.
With every day comes a new experience in MUN, from engaging in serious topic discussions and stabilizing seemingly far-fetched solutions, to talking about your favorite “Star Wars” movie and singing on stage in front of all your teammates.
“One memory that really stands out to me is actually from the very beginning of 9th grade. We were all forced to get up on stage and sing in front of everyone on the team and it’s pretty safe to say I was terrified. But, this experience caused something to click in me, it made me realize that I shouldn’t be so scared to publicly speak or generally express myself. Being in MUN is nerve-wracking to be completely honest. You never know what’s going to happen in practice and what direction committee will go in. But it’s fully worth it and enjoyable, especially with such a great team and advisor!” sophomore Brinda Garg said.
This team means so much to so many people, both in the crowded classroom of B9 and on Zoom with the squares with our individual faces. I can safely say that we are all better together.
“Although it may just seem to be a bunch of kids representing different countries, MUN genuinely changes people in the way they view their lives and the world, it creates principles and knowledgeable people who will eventually be future leaders,” Safaei said.
Our conferences were all moved online recently, and the adaptation to the online format has been a learning experience for everyone. Within the last two months, we attended back-to-back conferences, including a virtual trip to Canada’s Sir Winston Churchill High school, UCLA, Stanford University, UC San Diego, and Gunn High School.
This quick succession of conferences was one we had never experienced before but our team worked hard to ensure that we made our mark at every conference we attended, coming out as stronger delegates, ready for more to come next semester.
“Was it a challenge? Yes. Did we have to work a little bit harder than we usually do and put in a little more time and lose a little bit more sleep? Yes. But, at the end of the day, seeing the benefit, how everyone did so well, and the incredible improvement, it was worth it,” Kirchen said.
While it was difficult at first to adjust everything we had already learned about MUN to fit this new online setting, our captains, Sofia Kirchen, Borhan Safaei, Natalie Shtangurd, Rocco Fantini, and our advisor English teacher Joshua Mandell, helped the team in every way possible to make the transition seamless.
Taking virtual conferences one step further, our annual Valley Regional MUN Conference, usually hosted on campus, has made the transition online as well. After a successful first year hosting the conference in early 2020, the staff and everyone involved is doing their best to make it just as successful in February despite the obstacles that have arisen from the pandemic.