Cornellians teach Model UN at two NYC high schools

CIAS students in New York City
From left, Kristen Reichenbach '16, Shaan Franchi '18 and Suhas Bobba '18 during their Oct. 10 teaching session with the Bronx High School of Science's Model U.N. program in New York City.

Several student members of the Cornell International Affairs Society (CIAS) spent their fall break earlier this month piloting a program that taught Model United Nations, public speaking and debate skills to students at two New York City public high schools.

CIAS is Cornell’s largest internationally focused organization and maintains the Cornell Model United Nations Team. Two teams of CIAS members volunteered their time for a weekend session at the Bronx High School of Science and during a school day at Francis Lewis High School in Queens.

Shaan Franchi ’18, one of the directors of outreach for CIAS, said he came up with the idea for the teaching sessions after learning that many fellow CIAS members were available during fall break and would be in New York City. He contacted public high schools that had model U.N. classes or clubs and emailed the club leaders, arranging the two teaching sessions on short notice.

During the sessions, Franchi and other CIAS members led presentations and simulated debates tailored to each school’s needs.

Franchi said feedback his teams received from teachers at the high schools was positive and strong. Tara Vasilakopoulos, a history teacher and Model United Nations adviser at Francis Lewis High School, said, “It was a great experience, and students really enjoyed the simulated debate.” Diane Steiker, a teacher and Model United Nations adviser at the Bronx High School of Science, also gave Franchi good feedback; leaders from both schools said they would welcome CIAS teaching Model United Nations classes again.

CIAS members hope to hold more teaching sessions in New York City during Cornell breaks, Franchi said, and they are already in contact with two more schools. They also are exploring expanding training sessions to the hometowns of CIAS members around the country and perhaps even internationally.

Closer to home, Franchi said CIAS leaders are hoping to create an in-depth teaching program with the Ithaca City School District involving recurring teaching sessions during the school year.

Franchi also would like to get interested alumni involved in CIAS’ growing training and teaching efforts. “We believe this Model U.N. teaching program offers an effective and amazing way to enhance Cornell’s brand image and showcase the world-class Cornell International Affairs Society to potential Cornell applicants as well,” he said. “We would also welcome more Cornell student volunteers because our teaching curriculum includes skills such as public speaking, general parliamentary procedure, debate and other areas that many Cornell students are knowledgeable about – even if they have not participated in Model United Nations.”

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Melissa Osgood