Delegates who attended the Iowa Youth Symposium in 2017, held at the State Capitol. Front Row: Carter Nanninga, Holly Hilbrant, Raquel Navarrete, Daniel Salazar, Ana Poffenbaugh, Brissa Echevarria, Lauren Simmering, Tom Reinier Second Row: Logan Rinnert, Kjirstin Osland, Jessica Ahluwalia, Micaiah Poffenbaugh, Chris Kenefick, Sydney Cox Third Row: Emma Wagner, Kristen Schlawin, Carol Ford, Cassie Larsen, Mercedes Smith Back Row: Michelle Ramos, Sierra Long, JT Green, Marc Leipprand, Ben Zigament, Sydney Lobdell, Brooks Mathis, Joana Amaya, Phoebe

Where do world leaders develop the poise, speaking and negotiation abilities, and research skills to make a difference in the world? Of course, the answer varies, but for students in Muscatine High School’s (MHS’s) Model United Nations (UN) Club, the preparations they make for their conferences throughout the year puts them on the path to becoming thought leaders as adults.
One of MHS’s oldest organizations, co-advisor Rachel Hansen estimates the club has run continuously for over thirty decades. This group of forty to fifty students led by Michaela Geertsema, Alex Iosbaker, and Aaron Smith participates in four conferences annually, both
around the state and around the country. For each conference, groups of students receive a country assignment and two public policy questions. Students must research the questions they received as well as their country’s perspective on them to write position papers explaining how their country will respond to the issue. This challenges students to not only research countries and issues they have not studied before but learn to think about an issue from a perspective they may not agree with. Alongside their research and writing, students also work with their advisers and each other to polish both their public speaking and consensus building skills. Hansen explains students must learn to approach each conference not with the intention of “winning” it by having the best speech, but by learning how to use what they and others say as catalysts for changing their own ideas and finding compromises.
MHS Model UN students have a particular advantage when it comes to learning about their policy issues and how to discuss them; the group has a close relationship with the Stanley Foundation. Hansen states that in addition to ongoing financial support, the Stanley Foundation frequently sends actual policy analysts over to share their knowledge of certain topics with the students and to model for them how to have a productive policy debate. Hansen values the opportunity for Model UN members to meet people, “who actually do this for a living,” and feels grateful that her students have this phenomenal opportunity.
MHS’s Model UN has four conferences in their lineup for the year. First, students will travel to Des Moines on October 23rd and 24th, to participate in the Iowa Youth Symposium in honor of World UN Day on the 24th. Next, students will attend the prestigious Model UN of University of Chicago Conference, hosting 3,000 students from around the country and world from February 7th through 10th. Junior and senior students with previous experience will get to participate in the National High School Model UN Conference, which Hansen considers, “the big one,” The conference runs from March 4th through 10th, and gives students the opportunity to present their final resolutions on the floor of the actual UN building in New York. Finally, the group will end their season at the Iowa High School Model UN Conference on the University of Iowa campus from April 6th to 7th.
By equipping students to interact with ideas and people from different cultures in productive ways and by giving them the opportunity to travel around the country, Model UN gives MHS students life-changing experiences. As students prepare for their season ahead, they will continue to make a name for their school and contribute to the many leaders it has produced.