Ravalli County was represented by a unique delegation at the 53rd Annual Montana Model United Nations high school conference at the University of Montana, Nov. 19-20.

Homeschool students from across the Bitterroot Valley developed their own delegation with Tanya Horat and Holly Shupert serving as advisors.

Horat said Model United Nations help students gain skills in deep and critical thinking about geography, culture, economics, security, politics and communications.

“Students gain an understanding of effective modes of communication, diplomacy, and collaboration while addressing major global issues and the distinctives of other countries,” she said. “They also refine their research and writing skills and compile a position paper representing a country and topic assigned to them.”

In preparation for the conference students meet for 11-weeks to refine speaking skills, practice parliamentary procedure, exchange information gained through research and collaborate on possible resolutions to global issues.

Horat said the training and conference experience was educational for students.

“Regardless of a person's view on the actual United Nations, the learning that occurs in the Model United Nations context is amazing,” she said. “Whether it is learning how to do in depth research, writing about and discussing global issues with high level critical thinking, considering the viewpoints of people from different cultures, or overcoming a fear of public speaking, there is exponential growth.”

The students representing Ravalli County performed well and received awards of top 20 percent “Honorable,” top 10 percent “Distinguished” and top 1-2 percent “Outstanding.”

Individual awards: Isabelle Cannon (Lone Rock) - Honorable Country Delegation (Switzerland); Colton Frost (Hamilton) - Distinguished Country Delegation (U.S.A.); Samuel Fullante (Hamilton) - Honorable Country Delegation (Switzerland); Dakoda Hankinson (Stevensville) - Distinguished Delegate, Distinguished Position Paper, Top 25 senior, Distinguished Country Delegation (U.S.A.); Anna Lierke (Hamilton) - Distinguished Delegate, Distinguished Position Paper, Distinguished Country Delegation (U.S.A.); Emily Perez (Lone Rock) - Honorable Position Paper, Honorable Country Delegation (Switzerland); John Shupert (Corvallis) - Distinguished Delegate, Honorable Position Paper, Distinguished Country Delegation (U.S.A.).

This group also received the Distinguished Small School award.

Competitor Anna Liercke (Hamilton) said she learned about pressing world issues, the United Nations, the relationship between countries and the power of diplomacy.

“I learned about diplomatic language and it was interesting to see how people positively respond to it,” Liercke said.

She worked in the MUN International Organization for Migration and learned about migration issues and the position and policies taken by the United States.

“I learned a lot about our position and how we are viewed by other nations, both positively and negatively,” Liercke said. “I didn't realize what an interesting position the United States is in and how different we are from other nations. I realized how lucky we are to live here, too.”

Liercke said she valued the camaraderie of the team, the advisors and what she learned from the experience.

“It got me so much more involved and interested in current events than I've ever been in the past, and has completely shaped my outlook on world events,” she said. “Now I'm finding myself considering other people's opinions a lot more than I did before. Whether or not I agree, I do think of their side and think of how it affects them.”

Competitor Sam Fullante (Hamilton) said the experience was rewarding.

“I personally love being on stage and performing in front of an audience and while MUN isn't so much a performance as it is a competition, it definitely was a good experience to speak in front of what amounted to roughly sixty to seventy teenagers,” Fullante said. “I couldn't have done it without my teammates or my advisers. These people really helped me along and encouraged me through the whole thing.”

Competitor Isabell Cannon (Lone Rock) said, “MUN has been a great experience and was a good opportunity to try something new.”

Horat said as an advisor the Model United Nations preparation and conference was a wonderful experience.

“I am grateful for the privilege of working with, and learning alongside these stellar students,” Horat said.