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Young Canadian diplomats get an early start with Model United Nations

Samantha Millar inspires youth at the Canadian High Schools Model United Nations Conference.

Samantha Millar, keynote speaker of the opening for the Canadian High Schools Model United Nations (CAHSMUN) Conference over the weekend, wanted to convince high school students at the conference that Model United Nations.

Millar emphasized to youth that to her, Model UN -- a simulation of the United Nations (UN) that enables youth to engage in international affairs, is not only worthwhile, but “life-changing.”

Millar, who now works at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), shared the story of how she reached the career path she is on today.

In high school, Millar had originally wished to become a corporate lawyer. Because her calculus marks were too low, however, she thought about the course that she enjoyed most: World Issues. She thought about exploring this topic further at university – “maybe even beyond,” she noted – maybe.

She wasn’t sure at the time.

Model UN was what cemented her desire to study international relations.

Although Millar joined Model UN in her senior year, she quickly found that she loved the the discussions that she had. Because of her time at Model UN, Millar majored in political science at McMaster University, specializing in international relations and bonding with a professor whom she still talks to today.

She applied to represent McMaster’s Model UN team, in spite of her limited experience. Despite her doubts, she was selected to attend the Canadian International Model United Nations (CANIMUN) Conference, a bilingual conference that she looks back on as a place of “really unique opportunities.”

In 2006, unfortunately, with the leadership of the federal government changing from Liberal to Conservative, the government cut its budget for CANIMUN. CBC approached Millar about the budget cuts.

“I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to denounce the government on national television,” she joked, as the audience burst into laughter.

She began talking in a much more serious tone to illustrate her point. Millar argued that Model United Nations is “not just an extracurricular activity.” Rather, Millar believes it’s an “investment in the young people of Canada,” and an important one.

Though Millar voiced her concerns on national television, the funding cuts remained. CANIMUN, however, continued in spite of the budget cuts. This year, CANIMUN was held in Edmonton during the same time as CAHSMUN.

After completing a master’s degree, Millar interned with UNICEF, eventually joining UNICEF’s business continuity division. Millar’s division was particularly active during the time of the Haiti earthquake. UNICEF’s Haitian offices were no longer standing, but, as Millar said, “it was able to fulfill [its] mandate and [its] commitment to children.”

Millar told youth that her work continually inspires her today. Some friends have no idea who she’s talking about when she tells them that she met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but she loves what she does. That’s what matters.

If it weren’t for Model UN, Millar stressed to us, she probably wouldn’t have been at CAHSMUN. If it weren’t for Model UN, she wouldn’t have majored in political science, met the professor whom she still talks to, spoken against the government on national television, been able to help Haitian children, or met Ban Ki Moon. If it weren’t for Model UN, she would not be the Samantha Millar who she is today.

Model UN is worthwhile and life-changing. As Millar said, one’s opportunity to change the world doesn’t start when one is an adult.

“It starts in high school," she said.

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