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Student’s success in MUN taking him to China

7/3/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Aaron Kofsky
BATH — Seventeen-year-old Aaron Kofsky will be a senior in the fall at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School (STVM) in Downtown Akron, but this summer he’ll be an international ambassador.

Aaron is a member of the Model United Nations (MUN) team at his school, and as a result of his accomplishments, he won the right to visit Beijing, China and participate in an MUN conference there.

For those unfamiliar with MUN, Aaron said he would describe it as a mixture of foreign policy, politics and speech and debate.

While role-playing as ambassadors, students emulate the United Nations’ process of getting resolutions across, he said. They attend conferences — the mode of competition for MUN teams — where they confront topics relevant to the United Nations, such as child trafficking, nuclear weapons, trial laws, the drug trade and piracy.

At the WEMUN conference this summer in China, Aaron has been assigned to represent the People’s Republic of China, and his committee assignment is the World Health Organization. Their topic has not been released yet, he said.

Departing July 31, the All-American team of delegates, made up of 14 high-schoolers from around the U.S., will spend a few days training at Boston University. They will fly to China Aug. 2 for the four-day conference and sightseeing, returning home Aug. 11.

In order to qualify for the All-American team, delegates had to have at least one gavel (the top award at most conferences, given for best emulating the country you are representing, according to Aaron), along with numerous other awards, and complete a detailed application.

Aaron was tapped for the team while at The Ivy League MUN Conference at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) this past school year after the team’s coach heard Aaron speaking in committee rooms, according to Ruby Kofsky, STVM’s MUN adviser and Aaron’s mother.

The STVM team had been invited to attend the national Penn conference — the top MUN conference in the U.S, according to Kofsky — soon after they started venturing beyond Northeast Ohio for competitions.

Since the STVM team was formed in 2010, they had mostly been competing against other Northeast Ohio high schools in conferences hosted by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, she said.

When they got to Penn, they were overwhelmed, she said.

“It was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, we are in the big leagues now,’” said Kofsky. “But I knew they knew their stuff. It’s not just like going into a courtroom and competing or going into a math test.”

Writing, public speaking, research skills and thinking on your feet all come into play, she said.

“Also, you have to have a diplomat’s way of handling situations,” she added.

The MUN program at STVM will be in its fifth year the next school year and its first as one of 24 in the All-American MUN School Program, according to Kofsky, getting support from the same organization sending her son to China.

With the blessing of STVM administrators, Kofsky started the MUN team while her older son Adam was at STVM. No other school in Summit County had the program, she said, and Adam, then a junior, was looking to participate. The team, at first with just eight students, started meeting at her house in Bath on Sunday evenings for three or four hours at a time, she said.

Aaron, who was an eighth-grader at the time, said he used to sit in on some of those early meetings.

“He just caught on — he was like a sponge,” his mother said.

The team this past school year had a dozen students participate, with Aaron serving as secretary-general and head delegate.

Aaron began winning MUN awards as a freshman in high school, she said. During past MUN competitions, he has represented the U.S. on the Peacebuilding Commission and Russia on the Security Council, among others, he said.

At one conference, he was assigned to represent Ali Kushayb, a militia leader, on trial by the International Criminal Court for crimes related to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. According to the International Bar Association, Kushayb hasn’t actually seen his day in court yet. However, at that particular MUN conference, he was convicted for 50 crimes against humanity, Aaron said.

Aaron said before he travels to China, he will probably spend upwards of 80 hours doing research and getting ready in other ways for the WEMUN conference.

He said he is looking forward to debating with people from around the world and seeing the sights, he added.

Besides MUN, Aaron is a member of Rocket Team and Academic Challenge, president of his BBYO chapter and a ski instructor at Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort. This summer he already has served as a delegate at Buckeye Boys State, and he also likes to golf, read about politics and hang out with friends.

His future plans are to attend college — he’s already looking at several, mostly East Coast schools, he said — and double major in political science and foreign policy and minor in English. Beyond that, he expects to go on to graduate school or law school, he said.

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