Photo courtesy Long Beach Poly Model UN Club. The group is pictured on a field trip to New York in March, just days before schools were shut down.
For decades, Poly’s magnet programs have drawn national acclaim for the success of their students in the classroom. Even in a virtual world, that success continued earlier this month as a group of Jackrabbits was named Best Large Delegation at the Model UN (MUN) conference hosted by UC San Diego.
Patrick Gillogly has been the AP United States History teacher at Poly for the last 15 years within the prestigious PACE magnet program. He wrote the curriculum for a full Model UN class at Poly, and currently teaches the course while also advising the Model UN club. A group of Poly students participated in the recent TritonMUN competition, which was held via Zoom rather than on the UCSD campus. In addition to being recognized as a standout delegation, there were also a handful of Jackrabbits who earned individual recognition for their performances.
“It was really neat,” said Gillogly of the conference. “I have a really dedicated group of kids. Not as many kids want to do (Model UN) via Zoom versus in person, but of all the activities that are out there, one of the few that really translates well to the digital space is Model UN.”
The digital competition meant that participants were presenting from the comforts of their own homes, engaging in earnest, formal debate. With the flexibility of a Zoom background, delegates used their assigned nation’s flag or a notable landmark from their country to show their allegiances.
“The kids are assigned countries, and they can spend however long they want researching what their country is like, and researching the problem,” Gillogly explained. “There’s an opening speech and then they get ready to go into formal debate, and it gets intense. The students don’t always know each other, but they are very much in character. If you’re given Brazil, for example, you are Brazil. You really have to represent the interests and the perspective of Jair Bolsonaro. It’s a really cool simulation.”
Two Poly students were named Best Delegate in their committees, and received the actual wooden gavel used during the debate. Each gavel is engraved with the name of the committee and the conference, and it signifies a notable achievement in Model UN.
“It’s been my dream since my first conference to gavel, and it means a lot to get one during these unusual times,” said Poly junior Inanna Khansa, who was named Best Delegate in the committee on Facebook’s Board of Directors and Advisors. “It was really interesting to be in such a serious context standing in my bedroom rather than in a classroom in front of other people.”
Khansa said that she plans to pursue a career in medicine or law, so long as she’s in a position to help others. She credits Model UN with expanding her perspective on global issues and keeping her more informed.
“With Model UN, you see the world has so much complexity to it and there’s so many issues I’ve never thought about,” Khansa explained. “And in this case, it’s not just reading about it, it’s thinking about how to solve it. I think it’s really cool for a younger generation to do Model UN, because eventually we might have to solve these problems.”
Kris Bergajo is the vice president of Poly’s Model UN club, and she was also a gavel winner during TritonMUN. Bergajo said she was apprehensive of competing online, but was pleasantly surprised with the level of the debate. Her committee was the Association of Southeast Asian Nations discussing the non-militarism of the South China Sea, where she was named Best Delegate.
“It was my first time getting a gavel. I was shocked,” Bergajo admitted. “It took me three years to get my first gavel, so it’s good to see I’ve grown over the last three years.”
Bergajo is a senior at Poly and plans to major in psychology with a minor in political science once she gets to college. One day, she hopes to run political campaigns and she feels her MUN experience will assist her on that journey.
“Other than the fact that it builds important skills like public speaking and working with other people, learning more about current events and getting involved in politics has always been something I’m passionate about,” she said. “I care to make a difference and I think a lot of other kids care to do that too, and they find that in MUN.”
Justin Lim is the co-President of Poly’s Model UN club and was named an Outstanding Delegate for his performance. He had the unique challenge of representing China in the committee focused on the World Health Organization addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Lim is a senior at Poly who has aspirations in the medical field, with a desire to do humanitarian work around the world. For him, the best part of MUN is seeing his younger classmates excel.
“For me what brings me to the club is being able to see my younger delegates speak so confidently, even though they’re just starting their Model UN journey,” Lim said. “To be able to see them speak so eloquently even if it’s just their first or second conference is so amazing and and it really makes the Model UN experience so worth it.”