More than 2,000 students participated in the latest College of William and Mary High School Model United Nations competition, which returned for its 31st year Friday through Sunday. A Jamestown High School senior, Susanna Maize, took home the event’s Best Delegate award.
“I’ve been traveling for as long as I can remember,” Susanna said. “I’ve always had an interest in the world.”
Susanna’s eighth-grade civics teacher saw that as well and encouraged her to join Model U.N., which tasks students with tackling issues the real-world U.N. addresses, working together in search of solutions to issues such as climate change, Brexit and more in an effort to promote international cooperation.
“Since then, I’ve just fallen in love with it,” she said.
Susanna said the topic her Jamestown team chose, “The Argentine Cabinet of 1983,” seemed random at first glance, but therein she saw an opportunity to learn. The chair of her committee had roots in Argentina, providing a personal connection. The historical context of a military dictatorship uprooted by fledgling democracy provided a captivating and challenging starting point, as she and her peers worked to help establish a new government and hold former dictators accountable.
“It was really engaging,” she said. “I had no idea that this even happened.”
For Susanna, the value of Model U.N. comes from learning so many new things about the world. She said it also fosters cooperation and helps tackle the subject of many people’s nightmares: public speaking.
“There’s a lot going on that we don’t know about,” she said, emphasizing the dangers of repeating history.
“She’s got a lot of experience and she also takes it very seriously,” said librarian Lee De Groft.
De Groft joined Jamestown in 2012 and assumed the role of Model U.N. sponsor after seeing the school lacked one.
“It’s a wonderful experience for them,” she said. “The world is a larger place than they may think.”
De Groft said Model U.N. programs offer students the opportunity to learn about history, methods of negotiation, how to conduct research and more. It also fosters independence, as teams travel for competitions, and collaboration as different ideas are shared.
“You can have your own personal ideas,” Susanna said. “But if you’re not able to see what other people have to say, there’s no point in having your own ideas.”
In line with her passion for the world and its people, Susanna wants to study international relations in college, although she’s not yet sure where she wants to go.
“Model U.N. really sparked that interest in me,” she said. “I think anyone can do Model U.N. There are definitely ways to get engaged in advocacy at a young age.”
Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.