NIST Hosts Inaugural Middle School MUN Event

On 11 May 2019, NIST hosted its first-ever NIST Middle School Model United Nations (MUN) Conference. Participating delegates came from NIST, as well as Hua Hin International School and NIVA International School, two other institutions in Thailand. The conference was a wonderful experience for middle school delegates taking their first leap into the world of MUN, providing a comfortable and engaging environment for new participants to collaborate, learn and grow in an official conference setting.  

The first annual NIST Middle School MUN began with the opening ceremony, where the secretariat, Isha Banerjee (Y10), Kanav Patel (Y11), Amelia Mackenzie (Y10) and Avan Fata (Y11) formally opened the conference. Delegates were treated to an inspiring speech by Secretary General Kenshin Ueoka (Y11), who spoke on the joys of participating in MUN, and the drive exhibited by the youth hoping to tackle some of the most alarming challenges of today. After the Secretary General speech the formal gavel ceremony began, where the dedicated chairing teams were presented with their conference gavels. For this year’s conference, the chairing teams comprised experienced NIST students, with four chairs presiding over each committee room. The conference’s chairs–Ameya Agrawal, Jaskeerat Thakral, Abhishek Agarwal, Soroush Saleh, Grace Gambrill, Shivam Kogar, Natalie Khaoroptam and Arjun Chawla–worked tirelessly throughout the day to ensure delegates were getting the support needed for success.

After the opening ceremony, delegates were taken to their committee rooms to begin a full day of engaging debate. Over the course of the conference, they sparred on a variety of issues within the two committees, ranging from the question of eliminating discrimination against the LBTQ+ community to the regulation of oil production in highly polluting nations. Throughout the day, debate remained at a high level, with delegates participating in dynamic discussions, lobbying to form strategic alliances and constructing comprehensive resolutions to tackle some of the toughest issues encountered on the global stage. It was clear to see growth in many of the conference’s first-time delegates, who were able to participate actively in debating complex issues and provide well-researched and effective solutions for the topics discussed. This sentiment was voiced by the conference’s Secretary General, who stated, “There is no better opportunity for skill development for the next generation of MUNers than middle school MUN. This first NIST Middle School MUN Conference sets a solid foundation of experience for our middle school delegates, allowing them to grow effectively.”

As the conference drew to a close, delegates finalized and passed resolutions, and the conference wrapped up with the closing ceremony. Awards were presented to the most outstanding delegates and chairs, who truly surpassed expectations in elevating the standard of debate and encouraging their delegates to perform to the best of their abilities. Both best delegate awards were received by NIST delegates, Aditi Bhandari (Environmental Committee) and Mansimar Thakral (Human Rights Council), for their excellent performance and contribution to the success of the committee. The decision to select the recipient of the Best Chair award was extremely difficult, and in the end two recipients were selected for their phenomenal performance throughout the conference in encouraging delegates, and maintaining the smooth operation of their committee rooms. This honor was awarded to NIST Chairs Grace Gambrill and Arjun Chawla.

All in all, the first ever NIST Middle School MUN conference was a huge success, with many delegates providing positive feedback on their experience. One delegate in particular talked about his increased enthusiasm for the Model United Nations as a result of the conference: “I wasn’t that enthusiastic starting MUN, but I started to enjoy it and I made a lot of new friends in the process.” The success of this conference wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the dedicated MUN advisors, Melanie Kathleen and Alex Trotter, as well as with the support of NIST MUN President Aashna Kammila. In addition, special thanks goes out to the NIST staff, Community Relations & Services Department and Property Department for ensuring that the conference ran seamlessly, as well as the admin staff and chairs who took time out of their busy schedules to make this event possible.

Empowering Youth through Model United Nations

“IASAS Model United Nations’ mission is to bring people of various backgrounds together in order to help come up with diplomatic solutions, promote peace and develop a strong understanding of what it means to work with those who have different perspectives.”

– Co-Secretaries General of IASAS MUN 2016

On Tuesday, 8 November, NIST students embarked on a trip to attend the prestigious IASAS Model United Nations (MUN) Conference, hosted by Taipei American School (TAS). The NIST MUN delegation, comprised of 10 exceptionally experienced students from Years 12 and 13, represented a wide range of countries such as Malaysia and the Republic of Macedonia during the three-day conference.

With the conference theme of “Empowering the Youth”, the first day of debate started with Dr. Sharon Hennessy, the TAS Head of School, calling all students to “step up and solve the complex issues that are going to be debated at this year’s conference”. Followed by a powerful and enlightening cultural performance by one of Taiwan’s indigenous youth dance groups, the event began with a vibrant and energetic atmosphere among the students, representing 19 distinguished schools from all around Asia,

The conference held several nuances that made the event distinctive, the most notable of these being the involvement of Taiwanese culture in our delegates’ debate. Throughout the conference, the ingenious dance group from Taiwanese tribal group, Amese, held Q&A sessions with our international school students, where our delegates were introduced to the perspectives of the unique culture of the Amese people and the struggles they face in a globalizing world. The real-world connections derived from these sessions added a depth to our discourse, and further enriched the level and relevance of debate.

The NIST MUN team also played key leadership roles throughout the conference, with three of our very own facilitating and driving committee rooms towards fruitful debate. Mihir Patel, Class of 2017, took on an integral management position as the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), presiding over a room of 12 advocates and judges throughout the course of the conference. Furthermore, two students from the Class of 2018, Alessandro Prugel and Varun Subramaniam, also respectively spearheaded the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperative (APEC) and the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC) as Deputy Chairs of Committee.

Overall, IASAS 2016 was arguably one of the most successful conferences that NIST has recently attended. Our delegates passionately debated every issue that came their way, and their efforts culminated in the recognition of excellence by the conference leadership team. At this high-level conference, two of our delegates, Claire Gerrand (Special Political Committee- SPECPOL) and Kengo Shigeta (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative – APEC), received the distinguished Best Delegate award, an honor only achieved by nine of the 222 student attendees at this year’s IASAS MUN. A special thank you to our wonderful advisors, Mrs. Robin Wilensky and Mr. Paul Pickering, for their support and guidance in making this trip a successful and memorable one. The students of the NIST delegation came to a consensus that, without a doubt, this conference has been an extraordinary and impactful experience to us all.

– Kengo Shigeta (Class of 2017)

Beyond Giving: The NIST Microcredit Bank

Poverty and the cycle it perpetuates through generations represent an age-old problem that many view as a constant in life. A group of students and teachers at NIST don’t believe that a solution is so unfathomable, and they are tackling the issue head-on through the NIST Microcredit Bank (NMB). Created as a student-run service group with the aim of supporting all members of the NIST community, the NMB offers debt relief, business loans and scholarships for the children of the school’s support staff.

Based on the work of Mohammed Yunus, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in microfinance, the NMB initially focused on providing small business loans with very little interest to support staff at NIST who sought to open their own businesses. This focus gradually shifted to providing education-based debt relief through scholarships for the children of those staff members, aligning to NIST’s belief in the transformative power of learning, and contemporary research in sustainable economic and social development through education as opposed to simple philanthropy.

Though basic schooling for all children in Thailand is free in principle, extraneous costs even in small public schools put it out of reach of thousands of families, particularly those with multiple children. In the words of the microcredit bank members, “It is unacceptable to be students of an academic institution that permits those who support our education to struggle to afford an education for their own”. They view caring for all members of the NIST community as a fundamental responsibility, one that will ultimately allow families to be enriched through education.

2016 is the fourth year that the NMB has provided scholarships to children of support staff, and also represents the largest number granted thus far: 33 in total. The benefits of these scholarships greatly help to alleviate the burden of the costs associated with schooling in Thailand, enabling families to afford the best education they can provide without the financial sacrifice that usually comes with it.

Driven by the success of their work, the NMB continually seeks to raise funds through various school events and regularly receives donations from NIST staff, the NIST Parent-Teacher Association (NIPTA), parent groups, student-run groups and the student body itself. More importantly, the students recognize that monetary donations ultimately have a limited scope. The group meets weekly to find ways to connect and bring the focus back to the community and their role in its continued growth.

Looking to the future, the microcredit bank is continually looking to improve and identify ways to further engage staff, students and parents. In the meantime they aim to enrich the lives and livelihoods of all members of the NIST community through their unique work, which represents a first among international schools in Thailand. Head of School James MacDonald captured this passion best as he spoke to this year’s scholarship recipients: “Even though you may attend other schools, NIST is also your school, and you are an important part of the community here”.

Model United Nations: Closing the Gap

“We must do everything we can to close the gap between the world as it is, and the world as it should be. That is the mission of the United Nations. It’s time we work together to make this world better for all, where everybody can live with dignity and prosperity.”

On 10 October 2015, NIST International School hosted the 23rd annual Bangkok Model United Nations conference, and these were the words spoken by Nikhil Goyal, the Secretary General, before officially opening the event. With over 350 participants from 18 international schools from the greater Bangkok area, students arrived at NIST on a Saturday morning, ready to tackle the world’s most pressing issues with enthusiasm and drive.

Taking the Secretary General’s words to heart, students worked closely together to negotiate and author resolutions that address prominent global issues of the 21st century. Playing the role of delegates, students debated for their represented nation’s interests, emulating the United Nations protocol on debate and resolutions. The delegates researched, prepared, and discussed a wide range of issues, from the problem of transnational drug trafficking to the issue of the economic and socio-political inclusion of women, and collaborated to offer lasting solutions to today’s most profound issues.

The NIST delegation consisted of 56 students from Years 9 through 13 and was extremely successful throughout the conference. Weeks of preparation during our NIST MUN meetings paid off as our delegates participated and contributed at the highest levels of diplomacy and debate revealing the exceptional quality of the NIST Model United Nations programme. Four delegation members achieved the distinguished status of “Best Delegate” in their committees, including Ping Ping (Soravit) Kitsiriboon, representing Libya in the Disarmament and International Security Committee 2; Alessandro Prugel, representing Venezuela in Security Council 2; Hithalli Chawla, representing Brazil in Economic and Social Council 1; and Mitthi (Chirayu) Jain, representing Ireland in Human Rights Council 3.

Whether it was their first or tenth MUN conference, students finished the day with a true sense of accomplishment and pride. Having thoroughly debated pertinent global issues, we all left the conference feeling smarter, more confident and better prepared to suggest informed solutions to the problems of today. The conference was only possible with the support and guidance of our MUN advisors, Mr. & Mrs. Erik and Robin Wilensky, along with a dedicated MUN student leadership team, 36 exceptional administrative staff volunteers and the wide-ranging assistance of our beloved NIST support personnel from a variety of departments around the campus. Ultimately, our genuine collaboration made this an authentic learning opportunity for all student participants and an organized and successful conference.

– Kengo Shigeta

“MUN was an extremely fun and interactive experience. We debated on a variety of important issues, and I was able to meet new people from schools all around Bangkok. The debate was a patchwork quilt of engaging discussion, dotted here and there with borrowed Miley Cyrus song lyrics. Plus, to top it all off, the raspberry pancakes provided at the conference were to die for!”

Aashna Kammila, Year 9

“The immense caliber of the delegates around me really shook me up at first. However, after the first speech I realized that the chairs were really there to help boost our confidence, and that the other delegates were just as nervous as I was. I worked through my frightened phase, authored a resolution that was passed by the majority, and by the end of the conference, I gained the confidence to give speeches and become open to any and all points of information.”

Hithalli Chawla, Best Delegate award recipient

“My first Bangkok MUN conference was a great experience. It was challenging, and I was nervous, but at the end I had a great day. From making my first amendment all the way to meeting some very interesting people, I took risks and really enjoyed my time at the conference. The weekly meetings to prepare for the debate and learning about global issues were great, and led to a wonderful conference. I am proud of what I accomplished, and I look forward to going to more conferences in the future.”

Ankita Brahmachari, Year 10 – first year participant

“This conference was an experience like nothing else. In our committee, we discussed several important global issues in front an entire room full of people, and the passion and enthusiasm I saw during debate was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The people in that room were of different ethnicities, gender, and age, but I felt that there was one thing that joined everyone in that room: the hope of a better and more peaceful future. Overall this MUN experience was very educational and extremely fun. After this experience I can’t wait to attend the next conference!”

Alexander Templeton, Year 9

NIST MUN Student Leaders

Nikhil Goyal – Secretary General

Hannah Cooper – Deputy Secretary General

Kengo Shigeta – Parliamentarian

Mihir Patel – Vice President of the International Court of Justice

Adele Birkenes – Chair of Security Council 1

Paul Keen – Chair of Economic and Social Council 1

Vaibhaw Ladha – Chair of Disarmament and International Security Committee 2

Varun Subramaniam – Chair of Human Rights Council 1

Bek (Theeranai) Charaschanya – Chair of Special Political Committee 2

Paying Respect to the Sewol Ferry Victims

NIST-at-Sewol-Ferry-Memorial-01As many around the world have seen in newspapers, television programs and internet posts, the South Korean ferry Sewol tragically sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16. The death toll has since reached almost 300, with many still missing. The majority of victims were students from Danwon High School who were on their way to a four-day field trip to Jeju Island, Korea.

On behalf of NIST Community, our school visited the Korean Cultural Center on May 21st to express our deepest condolences to Danwon High School. Mr. James, Khun Nirut, Khun Poonam, two Korean teachers and student representatives (Y11 Korean students Jae Min Shin and Caitlyn (Gyu) Kim) visited the group memorial altar that was set up in Bangkok this morning. Memorial books containing letters of condolence to from NIST students and teachers were also offered to the students of Danwon High School and their  family members.

NIST-at-Sewol-Ferry-Memorial-02The Korean Cultural Center, located on Sukhumvit Road near the corner of soi 15, will be maintaining the memorial throughout the week, and visitors may stop by from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Thanks to Mr. Soo Yeun Lee and his colleagues for organizing the visit and providing details about the memorial.