When the College’s Model UN team captured “best large delegation” honours at the SSUNS competition in Montreal last fall, UCC parents Ronitt and David Van Slingerland weren’t surprised.
“They are by reputation and result one of the top three high school teams in North America,” says David. “They’re always winning awards.”
“It’s something that our kids are very passionate about and David and I are very passionate about, because we’ve seen the enormous impact that it’s had on our boys,” says Ronitt of UCC’s Model United Nations.
Recently, that passion led the couple to establish an endowment to help future members flourish. Their gift of $105,000 will assist students whose families are unable to cover all of the costs to attend conferences, including transportation, accommodations, meals and conference fees.
In a normal year, the team attends three to four conferences, sometimes at Harvard University, Georgetown University, and the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the annual SSUNS (Secondary Schools United Nations Symposium) at McGill University. In watching their own sons’ progress, the Van Slingerlands came to recognize the importance of conferences in developing the skills needed to succeed in Model UN.
“Frankly, students can practise as much as they want in the school, but you really need to get into the heat of competition and be up against the best of the best, which they are at these conferences,” explains David.
Soon after Jordan Van Slingerland ’22 and Ryan (who graduates next year) joined Model UN in Year 8, their parents noticed huge improvements in the brothers’ communication skills, confidence levels, leadership skills and research abilities. Daily, they began scouring at least five news sources to stay on top of current events. And, as they drafted position papers to present at conferences, the calibre of their writing improved.
“It’s taught them how to listen and think about opposing points of view,” says David. “And at conferences, they need to collaborate, cajole, persuade and facilitate.”
A willingness to take risks, such as being able to speak comfortably in front of 1,000 people, also developed. They’ve become “fearless public speakers,” notes Ronitt. “The skills that they’ve learned are invaluable in all facets of their life.”
She believes participation in Model UN can enhance any student’s ability to reason. “They’re learning how to think — not to regurgitate information — and analyze things, which fits hand in glove with the IB and the school’s philosophy.”
The couple want more UCC community members to be aware of the high calibre of UCC’s Model UN team, and they want talented students to be able to reap the benefits that their sons have derived from their Model UN experiences.
“We want to make sure that, for students of merit, money shouldn’t be a limiting factor — that anybody with the skills and the aptitude is able to go and compete at these conferences and help the team win,” says Ronitt.