High schoolers from four Dutchess County school districts represented the viewpoints of various countries while working together to come up with resolutions during Dutchess BOCES’ High School Model United Nations at Vassar College Dec. 18.
Students from John Jay, Ketcham, Orchard View, FDR, Spackenkill and Webutuck high schools acted as delegates from countries including Japan, South Africa and Sweden to decide whether Taiwan should become an independent state.
Dr. Matthew Murray, assistant professor of government at Dutchess Community College, has led Model UNs for over 10 years where students learn how to compromise, negotiate, improvise on the spot and speak to a crowd.
“All of those are good life skills and job skills,” Murray said. “It’s a different kind of experience.”
The students’ ability to compromise and argue for viewpoints that may not align with their own thoroughly impressed Murray who hopes to see them return for future simulations.
“It is a bit unusual, perhaps even uncomfortable defending positions you may not personally agree with, but that’s the role you took on,” Murray said. “You all did a very good job at representing those views.”
For sophomore Violet Aufdenberg, who represented Egypt, the issues presented were complex and she had to present viewpoints that were the opposite of her own.
“It wasn’t black and white thinking, you really had to make a lot of compromise,” Aufdenberg said. “That’s really eye opening.”  
Aufdenberg appreciated the opportunity to practice critical thinking skills, which she described as a confidence builder.
“You can be as smart as you want, but as soon as you’re out here arguing and making connections, that’s really what this is about,” Aufdenberg said. “I just needed somewhere to just put my voice out there.”
It was Hyde Park sophomore Kiara Wimphriu’s first time participating and she learned plenty from both studying in advance about Taiwan, the country she represented, and talking with other delegates.
“It wakes you up to what’s going on in the world,” Wimphriu said. “People are so nice around here, you can just ask them, ‘Can you fill me in and this?’ and they’ll tell you.”
Wimphriu enjoyed the experience and encouraged classmates to give it a try, even if they are nervous.
“You don’t have to be the loudest person to join a group of people, everyone’s going to accept you,” Wimphriu said. “You talk to different people and it gets you out there.”
Audrey Roettgers, BOCES Educational Resources coordinator, praised students taking their roles seriously, coming prepared and working well with other delegates to come up with solutions.
“If only world peace were as easy as you guys made it,” Roettgers said. “I truly appreciate you working this way to make our world a better place.”