Seneca Valley student wins award at Model UN event

February 8, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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JACKSON TWP — A senior at Seneca Valley High School was recently recognized for delivering insightful knowledge of history.

Martina Beggy was honored with the title Excellent Delegate at Duquesne University's Model United Nations event Jan. 25.

Martina participated in a simulated crisis committee that examined the power dynamics at the time of 1989's Tiananmen Square student protests.

Martina, who has been participating in Model U.N. since 10th grade, said a lot of research goes into the events.

“You have to know pretty much everything there is to know about your country,” she said, “and find other countries that are your friends or allies, and others that you oppose on the topic.”

For the Duquesne competition, Martina assumed the role of Xu Qinxian, a general of the Chinese People's Liberation Army who refused to use force against demonstrators in Beijing.

“I was on a council called 'board of directors,'” Martina said. “Basically, they were leaders from the Chinese Communist Party and world leaders from the U.S., Britain and Russia at the time of the Tiananmen Square crisis”

Martina said the moderators presented the students with problems, and they had to resolve the issues in the manner of their assumed leaders.

“They threw issues at us, like 'student protester just shot one of the military officers' or 'a military officer got thrown in jail,'” she said.

The aspects of back-door deals, pledges, alliances and the opportunity to work around problems are what make the competition fun and interesting, Martina said.

She said she enjoys Model U.N. because she can meet new people and negotiate with them.

Martina, who is interested in going into international relations with a focus on foreign policy, said she hopes to go to school in the Washington, D.C., area.

This was Martina's fourth Model United Nations award.

She was supervised and coached by senior high school gifted support teacher Dean Walker.

Walker said this was his first year coaching Martina, who was first coached by Debra McDermott.

“Debbie gets these kids started and does such an amazing job with them,” Walker said. “I'm learning from her through my students.”

Walker said students who want to get involved in the competition should be familiar with the different powers of councils, the type of authority and power that councils have, and what they try to do.

Students are assigned a role and topic, and they need to learn about the country, its political and religious values, government type and power structure, as well as which other countries are represented on that council, possible allies, and potential roadblocks to the policies that a student's specific country wants to see enacted.

Walker said students also learn how to make deals using negotiation, leverage, force and other tactics to achieve their goals.

There are a number of competitions throughout the year, Walker said, and they end at Westminster College.

“Each college runs them a little differently,” he said. “At the Westminster one, the kids will be required to write papers beforehand, which are included in how they're judged.”

The topics at each competition vary because the roles of countries are different depending on current events.

“There's a lot to it,” said Walker, the coach. “They get to put themselves in the shoes of a perspective that's not necessarily their own. They also have to represent their country, not themselves, so they have to understand the complexity of the issues.”

Often, such subjects as free education for women, nuclear programs and global warming become topics students must view from a different perspective.

“You really need to see why a government's hands may be tied,” Walker said. “(There are) so many different standpoints, relationships economically or religiously. The layers of complexity, they get to see are more than just 'how I feel' or 'here's what I think is right.'”

Walker said a great thing about Model U.N. is the students never stop learning from the experience.

“Kids are coming away after four years and still saying, 'Oh, I didn't know that' and learning,” Walker said.

Model U.N. provides students the opportunity to learn about and discuss issues of international diplomacy through participation in an academic simulation.

It is currently offered only through the gifted program at Seneca Valley High School due to the curriculum required for and cost associated with the program.

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Alexandria Mansfield

Alexandria Mansfield

Alexandria Mansfield is a community reporter at the Cranberry Eagle. She worked as a freelance reporter before joining the Eagle staff in July 2018. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania's journalism and public relations department in 2018 and from Wellsboro Area High School in 2015. While at IUP, she served as a reporter and editor at The Penn, the university's student-run, twice-weekly newspaper, and earned first place awards from Pennsylvania News Media Association and Pittsburgh Black Media Federation in 2017 and 2018, respectively, for her news coverage and investigative reporting.