Middle School Debuts New Academic Team, Model UN


Image Credit: Ashley Gayanilo

Isabel Gao, Author

Over the weekend of November 6, the Westminster Model UN team participated in a simulation conference for the first time ever in Middle School, having recently added the Model UN academic team to its academic program.

Student interest has been high for this new program. Participants meet every other Thursday to plan, prepare, and learn for upcoming conferences. Model UN coach and World Cultures teacher Zachary Wroblewski says the turnout and energy students have brought to the team have exceeded his expectations: “We had incredible turnout.” Many teachers have helped support Model UN. Teachers recommended many exceptionally talented students to join the team. “A lot of support from teachers saying here are kids that would be good; students have been awesome,” says Wroblewski. 

The Westminster Middle School History Department has been planning to add the team for the past four years. Model UN Coach and World Cultures teacher Ashley Gayalino has been a key pioneer in starting the team. Wroblewski, who had prior experience with Model UN at other schools, brought knowledge and expertise to the team. With the resources in hand, the Model UN team was created this school year.  

The process started last school year when the Middle School made connections with the Upper School team as eighth graders participated in Model UN simulation conferences. Model UN is a simulation of the UN General Assembly where students perform an ambassador role for a country while debating topics such as gender equality, war, climate action, etc. Because Model UN is a competitive academic program, the school participates in competitions in the form of conferences with other schools in Georgia. 

Due to the success of the eighth-grade simulation conferences, both coaches, Ashley Gayalino and Wroblewski, knew it was time to add Model UN to the Middle School academic team program.

Model UN was also added to develop critical leadership and communication traits for Westminster Middle School students. Gayalino explains teachers felt a gap in leadership and civic engagement. “It’s time we need to build leaders of conscience and areas of civic engagement,” she says.

No team is created without any road bumps. As Model UN prepares for conferences, there have been several challenges in creating a cohesive and successful team. As a Middle School team, many resources were limited compared to the Upper School Team. The number of competitions is usually limited in the middle school division as many schools do not have a Model UN team. Many countries are represented in the high school division, and the number of solutions presented is greater than in the middle school. “It’s tougher to create a middle school team than a high school team cause there’s a lot of resources and conferences high school teams can go to,” says Wroblewski.  Certain conference topics are also limited because many high school topics are more in-depth and mature than middle school topics.

Besides these minor challenges, the start of Model UN has been a success. Both coaches look forward to team members developing their skills and participating in conferences. “I’m looking forward to the kids growing and their ability to understand global problems and create solutions and collab with other countries,” says Gaynillo. Similarly, Wroblewski is excited to see the bridge develop between the middle and upper school teams and see students interact with other local schools in the area at conferences. “I think it will be really fun to build a bridge between the middle and high school,” he says. “I think any opportunity you have to go outside of Westminster to talk with students is healthy.”