Martina Pittroff and Ivan Vinatzer recently represented Belmont at the Vancouver Model United Nations conference. Over 1

Langford students get lesson in diplomacy

Exchange student receives outstanding delegate award at model UN event

Four Belmont secondary students, decked out in their best business attire and armed with a stack of notes and as much knowledge as they could cram into their minds, prepared to become delegates representing real countries in a mock United Nations assembly.

Ivan Vinatzer (Israel), Martina Pittroff (Denmark), Kylie Milne (Spain) and Cam McMicken (Moldova) represented Belmont recently at the Vancouver Model UN conference, the largest high school-run gathering of its kind in North America.

The Belmont students joined those from two other public schools on the Island and a handful of private schools at the event, which drew more than 1,100 students from across Canada, Oregon, Washington, California, Japan and Korea.

“It was probably the best weekend of my life,” said Pittroff. “It was a really great experience.”

The 16-year-old joined the group at a friend’s request, but now can’t wait for the next event. “It’s not what you’d expect,” she said. “I think when people first hear about it, they get the wrong impression.”

Pittroff said often students have preconceived notions about what a model UN conference is like, including such visions as private school students reigning over those from public schools.

But the delegates support each other as they work on their public speaking, she said. And while people are often nervous at first, the more speeches they give, the easier it becomes.

Vinatzer, an 18-year-old Italian exchange student, said, “It’s quite an amazing feeling to get up there and talk … you look up and 150 people are staring at you.”

He said the conference was “the highlight of my experience in Canada.”

Vinatzer was the recipient of the outstanding delegate award for the UN General Assembly disarmament and international security committee.

He and the rest of the students had their skills and knowledge put to the test, with negotiations that ran late into the night.

They were even pulled from their beds for a midnight crisis scenario involving peacekeepers killing underage protesters in Sudan. They had to work with other countries to come up with policies to help remedy the situation.

It took “collaboration and compromise” to reach those solutions, Vinatzer said, and a lot of debating.

But, as Pittroff noted, there was a no-Internet policy, so delegates had to communicate with each other the old fashioned way: by passing paper notes.

That policy also meant students could not look up their country’s stance on a particular issue, they could only refer to the hard copy of notes they had with them. They also had to put their own views aside and promote the interests of the country they were representing.

“It is really challenging to put away your own opinions, especially if you’re really passionate about a subject,” Pittroff said. “You had to think on the spot.”

While the pair said everyone was exhausted by the end of the weekend, it was worth it.

“It was an amazing experience,” Vinatzer said. While he’s not sure what career path he’d like to take, he said, “I like this kind of atmosphere and I would like a career where this atmosphere is promoted.”

Pittroff has her sights set on becoming a neurologist or environmental lawyer. But experiences like the conference make her want to travel more and see the world.

Vinatzer, a self-proclaimed “citizen of the world,” said often students will be discouraged from joining model UN because they don’t like politics or don’t believe that world events directly impact them.

But he said it’s important to know what’s going on around the globe, and the conference was a great opportunity to learn more. “It opens your eyes; not just the conference but the whole preparation (for it).”

The Belmont students meet every Thursday at lunch to practice and prepare for upcoming events, with a lot of extra hours put in after school to learn more and write position papers.

They thanked their teacher-advisor, Evelyn Amado for the opportunity.

“If it wasn’t for her, we would not have left the school,” Vinatzer said. Pittroff added the school also made it possible for them to go by helping with some of the cost.

Amado, meanwhile, was delighted with her students.

“They worked so hard,” she said. “It was very intense for the kids.”

She noted they held their own going up against some of the top private schools on the Island and mainland. “They conducted themselves with such decorum. They won the respect of others.”

And Vinatzer’s award? Well, she said that was just the icing on the cake.

Just Posted

Bear sightings historically rare in Langford: City staff

51 bear complaints or sightings in last year

Mental health walk/run aims to outpace depression

Walk increased to 5k, run to 10k

Autism support dog helps Langford boy hold his head high

Family shares story for Autism Awareness Month

Give your immunity a boost for National Immunization Awareness Week

Immunize Canada calls on Canadians to stay up to date with their immunizations

Families hop over to Easter celebrations at Millstream Village

Annual Easter Eggstravaganza had lineups before 11 a.m.

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Most Read