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Published February 22, 2017
Miramonte students take Harvard by storm
From left, Evan Steinberg, Griffin Ansel and Kelly Zheng hold their first-place certificates. Photo provided

Under the direction of Law and Society teacher Mike Rose, the Miramonte High School Model UN club scored big at the international competition held at Harvard University last month.
Three of the 17 students - Griffin Ansel, Kelly Zheng and Evan Steinberg - placed first in their chambers, while verbal commendations went to Lauren Bond and Kai Otsmaa. In all, 3,400 delegates came from around the globe to participate.
The competition asks students to simulate real United Nations activities, such as women's rights, global space, and Security Council issues, for example, and come up with resolutions and solutions to these weighty topics. They are also assigned a nation to represent in the proceedings.
Each student was given two topics to research and write position papers on before they went to the convention. They were then evaluated by Harvard students at the competition for their skills in speaking, presentation and negotiations, among other criteria.
Ansel, a senior and president of both the Model UN and the Public Speaking and Debate clubs at Miramonte, won an individual first in his chamber on top of 195 other delegates. He represented the United Kingdom in pushing for solutions to outer space affairs and led a coalition to work on cleaning up and mitigating debris in space. Ansel, in his second year of international competition, worked without a partner, unlike most of the other delegates.
Steinberg and Zheng were paired together on the International Atomic Energy Agency, role-playing the Iran nuclear deal from the point of view of the United Kingdom, but simulating that it was pre-2013. They looked for more useful ways to help their country and tried to provide a plan that was better than the current deal.
Bond and Otsmaa, both seniors, were commended for their work on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
All three of the first-place winners gave thanks to Rose, their club advisor, for putting together the team. Since Model UN is not a class at the school, the students, and Rose, put in their own time to prepare for the competition. The students also thanked their parents, who helped pay for the trip, and their speech and debate teachers, Kristen Plant, Linda Hora, and Sandra Maguire.
A highlight for the team was the chance to visit Harvard and interact with some of the college students. "It was a real thrill," said Steinberg, a sophomore. "I will at least apply to Harvard as one of my college choices."
For Ansel, who also played varsity football, is an Eagle Scout, and a Congressional Gold Medal winner, the visit was even more compelling. Shortly after being interviewed for this article, he was to meet with a representative from Harvard and is considering attending there.
Ansel was also able to reconnect with friends he made last year and make new ones. "I've met people from at least ten other countries that I keep in touch with," he said.
Zheng mentioned that with less than half the students coming from the United States, "it was cool to learn how people live their lives in other countries like Korea, Peru or Lebanon."
Rose, who is in his fourth year of teaching at the Orinda campus, said, "It was incredible to watch the kids perform and excel at this high level."
The Model UN club is funded through the Educational Foundation of Orinda (EFO), fundraising, and student donations. Rose estimates that he puts in hundreds of hours each year in his role as advisor.

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