A trip and opportunity of a lifetime
By SUE SUCHYTA
A Dearborn and Dearborn Heights Model United Nations team, with students from five local high schools, experienced an opportunity of a lifetime Jan. 26 to 29 at Harvard University.
The international conference drew students from around the world to use their speaking, writing and research skills to work to solve world problems like the real United Nations, addressing conflicts with diplomacy, negotiation, critical thinking and compromise.
Advisor Bilal Hammoud of Dearborn Heights took 13 team members to Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., for the international gathering. The team consisted of Taylor Gabrielson and Areeba Nasir, sophomores from Annapolis High School in Dearborn Heights; seniors Sarah Chenade, Leen Moussa and Serena Saleh, and juniors Waard Dakhlallah, Batoul Mansour and Islam Nasser, from Crestwood High School in Dearborn Heights; Waleed Al-AwarNaime, a senior from Dearborn High School; Aya Bazzoun, a junior from Fordson High School in Dearborn; and juniors Jasmine Alawie and Hawraa Jouni and freshman Nooran Abou Kamar from Star International Academy in Dearborn Heights.
Nasser said meeting students from different backgrounds provided her with a completely different perspective.
“It allows you to realize the unintentional close-mindedness you practice back home and allows you to change for the better,” she said. “The memories you make and the knowledge you obtain truly stick with you in all aspects of life.”
Bazzoun said the opportunity was like no other she has experienced.
“We were surrounded by so many different people from various cultures and yet somehow, I felt as though I fit right in,” she said. “Everyone was so welcoming, and everyone’s values were respected and that respect was reciprocated.”
Bazzoun said they met people from as far away as Brazil, Peru, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
“We worked together to problem solve and present solutions with nuanced approaches, and both the support and opposition of these propositions helped me to become more open-minded and willing to hear perspectives that I might’ve usually protested,” she said. “On top of that, we still managed to have the time of our lives.”
Bazzoun said the Model United Nations is more than just a debate club.
“The organization unites people of all different backgrounds, and is, in its essence, gratifying,” she said.
Moussa agreed that it was eye-opening to be at an international conference with people from 60 countries and diverse cultures and ethnicities.
“Being surrounded by diversity definitely helped me explore different perspectives, which not only helps with Model United Nations but also in my everyday life,” she said.
Moussa said she would strongly encourage students to join groups like Model United Nations.
“It not only encourages them to explore international relations and different geopolitical issues, but it teaches them diplomacy, speaking skills and writing skills, and assists them in making real-world connections with people all over the globe,” she said. “These are skills that can be used no matter what field of study they choose to pursue.”
Saleh said the Model United Nations was an unforgettable experience.
“It taught me the importance of being open to others’ perspectives, as well as understanding that there are many approaches to solving a single issue,” she said. “While I have many amazing memories, my favorite one was being able to sit down with three other delegates and work on a resolution together.”
Saleh said the four delegates all had different ideas, and they worked together to get the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda on track.
The 2030 agenda for SDG was adopted by the actual United Nation member states in 2015 to provide a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.
“We all shared our ideas and we were able to merge them into two large clauses that worked mutually and depended on each other,” she said. “It was so rewarding to see how a simple conversation could solve so much.”
Saleh said it has taught her about the importance of working together.
“It’s made me think about how peace talks and overall collaboration is so crucial when you’re working with other people,” she said. “It makes everyone feel included and makes your ideas come alive with more passion.”
Saleh urges other students to get involved in the Model United Nations.
“The international politics, as well as being able to work with people your own age from different places, is an eye-opening opportunity that I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on,” she said.
Kamar, who was a last-minute addition to the team when someone dropped out, said it was a lot of last-minute work, but it was definitely a trip to remember.
“I was incredibly grateful I was given the chance to take part,” she said.