Rancho Santa Fe resident an award winner at Columbia University conference


Seventeen students from Pacific Ridge School were among over 800 high school delegates from around the country to participate in Columbia University’s 15th annual Model United Nations Conference and Exposition (CMUNCE) Jan. 14-17.

Rancho Santa Fe resident Michael Rattner, a sophomore, was among the conference’s award winners, receiving Best Delegate honors for his work with classmate Connie Yu of Carlsbad. The two students served as a dual delegation in a committee addressing Bolivia’s 2003 “Gas War.”

According to Michael, participating in a national conference like CMUNCE was exhilarating.

“It was an incredibly high-powered debate,” he said. “Model UN brings together people who really care about current events and it’s a great chance to compare your views and ideas with other people who also care.”

The Columbia conference is known for its fast-paced crisis committees, which allow students to react quickly and address real-world scenarios in international affairs. Pacific Ridge students are particularly adept at crisis committee work, as it is a mainstay of the conference they co-host each year with High Tech High North County. The two schools hosted the 5th annual North County Regional Conference in December.

“Crisis scenarios add a lot to the experience,” noted Josh Kahn, a Pacific Ridge senior from Encinitas who also took home a Best Delegate award. “Delegates have to be adaptable and think on their feet. It makes the conference fun, but they also need to really understand the issues in order to respond to unanticipated events.” Josh won his award for a historical committee addressing the 1777 Grand Council of the Iroquois Nations.

Model UN events allow students to role play as world delegates to solve international issues. To prepare for conferences, students do research and write position papers for their committees. At the event, student delegates function as the real United Nations would, debating issues and forming resolutions. Students who participate in Model UN display a firm grasp of historical and current affairs, and give their analytical and public speaking skills a good workout.

Pacific Ridge faculty advisor Scott Silk believes that the work pays off in terms of preparing the students for the future.

“Model UN’s relevance is particularly high in a world that has truly become global. It’s important to get kids thinking about these issues, and how countries can work together to address them. It prepares them to be future problem solvers.”

Other winners from Pacific Ridge include a Best Delegate award to junior Alyssa Martindale of San Marcos, an Outstanding Delegate award to junior Robert Farmer of Carlsbad, Honorable Mention to juniors Jonah Gerke of Oceanside and Andrew Duca of Carlsbad, and Verbal Commendation to senior Vincent Wang of Carlsbad and sophomore Rachel Farris of Carlsbad.