I am a prospective neuroscience scholar with experience in the advocacy and advancement of cultural diversity within government municipalities. Within the upcoming year, I will become the first-ever high school student to be an intern at a Virtua surgical department with experienced surgeon Dr. Strauss. Currently, I am involved with thirteen extracurricular activities and have high leadership positions in over five of them. After attending college, I will be furthering my education in medical school, followed by an orthopedic surgical residency.
I accepted the offer to join the Gifted and Talented program at my high school for one reason: it was a prerequisite to participate in Model United Nations. I was determined to be the secretary-general my senior year; and, the only pathway was to enroll in that class. Mrs. Palmer, the GT teacher, hand-selected thirty students from her class to join this elite group. As a freshman, I was chosen for the team, and at my first conference, I won an Honorable Mention. My infatuation with the club grew exponentially from there. I went to every conference possible my freshman year and won a different award each time. I also made friends who challenged me to create better resolutions and encouraged me to find inventive solutions to global problems.
Despite being a club built on a foundation of diversity and problem solving, the majority of Eastern students would never have the opportunity to participate in MUN because they were not in the Gifted and Talented class. The selection process for the class and the team was subjective, and that reduced the diversity of the students in the club. That seemed unfair to me.
Throughout my sophomore year, I pleaded with Mrs. Palmer to eliminate the GT program as a prerequisite. She declined each time, stating that it was part of the GT curriculum and that only GT students were qualified. Therefore, I made the decision to unenroll in her class and argue that I, nevertheless, was capable and qualified.
At the start of my junior year, I didn’t fully understand the nature of the challenge that I had embraced. First, I met with the vice-principal. After laying out my case, he was sympathetic but unauthorized to make the change. Then I met with the principal, who agreed with my position, but was also unable to enact a change. Finally, I went to the superintendent.
In November of 2019, I found myself sitting across from Mr. Cloutier, the superintendent of my school, armed with a two-inch binder crammed full of information, in the formal conference room. He told me that he agreed with me in principle, but that the issue was also a budgetary one, and that he didn’t see how we could carve MUN out of the GT curriculum and not lose the funding for the MUN program. This was a new and unanticipated roadblock, but I was determined to find a solution. After an hour of brainstorming, like a MUN conference, I convinced him that anyone taking any Social Studies course should fulfill the prerequisite. Further, this would allow the funding to be transferred from the GT program to the Social Studies department with a net-zero effect on the total budget. He agreed. In February of 2020, the plan went in front of and was approved by the Board of Education.
At each step along the way from the vice principal to the principal to the superintendent, I was offered the option to immediately re-enroll in GT and rejoin the MUN team. However, I declined, knowing that I had to demonstrate that qualifications should not be based on the arbitrary GT class, but on ability, maturity, and talent. Model UN changed my life and I wanted to give that opportunity to as many people as possible.
Ironically, the skills that I learned and honed in MUN were the same skills that helped me navigate the process and successfully present my case even though I had to give up the GT class that I liked. Although I can never finish the course, nor can I attend another MUN conference for the remainder of my high school career due to Covid, I am sure that opening the MUN club and team to the entire diverse student body was worth the sacrifice.