LAKE TWP. Malone University and Lake Local Schools partnered in a project that brings together students from around Stark County and surrounding areas for the annual Stark County High School Model United Nations (SCHMUN) conference.
The SCHMUN Conference was established in 2006 by Dr. Scott Waalkes of Malone University. The aim of the conference is to provide a space for students, in a low-pressure environment, to hone their skills in teamwork and collaboration, research and writing and public speaking.
“The SCHMUN is open to students in grades freshman through senior and we have a mix of first-time students and some who have been in the group for multiple years,” said Dr. Scott Waalkes, SCHMUN deputy director. “Students get connected through their social studies teacher’s referral. It’s on the level of speech and debate and or mock trial groups in high school. Students in SCHMUN focus on global concerns and issues which are debated by country.”
Waalkes said students get assigned to committees with each committee representing one country. Resolutions are offered and students debate them, then vote to adopt them or vote them down. Resolutions that pass go onto the floor for adoption or they get voted down.
He said students learn about international affairs along with building leadership skills. SCHMUN members meet at their school throughout the year and then attend the annual conference in Stark County as well as other events throughout the year.
The SCHMUN conference is held at both Malone University and Lake Middle High School. It was a three-day event. The first two days are located in the state-of-the-art Lake Middle High School building, equipped with flexible seating, modern technology, and open collaboration spaces. The conference aims to integrate technology into the committees and debate. Each room is equipped with microphones and four televisions. Day three is located at Malone University with the General Assembly held in the auditorium lecture hall.
In addition to the debate, the SCHMUN conference aims to incorporate different academic entities. The conference has a support security staff made up of middle school students. Additionally, SCHMUN is staffed with journalism and multimedia students from different districts. Students work collaboratively to create a press team to cover the SCHMUN Conference.
“Students interested in SCHMUN generally have some interest in going into some sort of government related position, many go onto law school,” Waalkes said.
The group debates across four areas including human rights, environmental concerns, general international peace and security and simulation of United Nations security council with a 15-member group within the larger group.
“Participation in SCHMNU is a really good representation of how it really happens in government. The one difference is that the students take the issues more personal and have a difficult time separating out the emotion,” Waalkes said. “It is a wonderful extracurricular activity with a great leadership opportunity and is just as transformative as speech and debate.”