From January 17-20, Tappan Zee High School Model UN Club members joined student delegates from around the globe for the Columbia Model United Nations Conference and Exposition at Columbia University. For three days, delegates engaged in intense, crisis simulations spanning a variety of topics, time periods, and regions (on Earth and beyond). Senior and Model UN Club President Cassie B. and junior Kavitha S. both earned Honorable Mention recognition for their work.
The TZHS delegates were selected over the course of three, two-day “committees” this fall. Those interested in attending the conference were required to write a position paper and demonstrate commitment and skill through their committee participation. “We build a new team every year, and they represent the strongest in the group at this time,” said history teacher and Model UN Club advisor Martin Patmos.
“It was really fast-paced and a little intimidating at first,” noted Lola W., who represented Nigeria with fellow junior Jack B., during the Nigerian Civil War. “But you find people whom you can work with and get things done.”
Club Co-Secretary Lucy B., a junior, was on an interplanetary committee focused on the colonization of Mars and Venus. “Although our committee was set in 2300, some of the issues were similar to those of the colonization of North America,” she explained. “We were able to draw on our historical knowledge.”
Other committees had virtually no precedent. “My committee was set in 2025 and focused on the death of the Dalai Lama,” reported sophomore Noah K. “As a lead monk, my role was to help choose the successor. Because there was no precedent, we tried a lot of different things–like naming two Dalai Lamas–but they were rejected.”
Sophomore Toby S. served as cognitive scientist and philosopher Noam Chomsky during the 2000 US Presidential Election, a simulation which involved separate committees to represent each of the three candidates. “I’m not particularly interested in politics,” he said. “But I learned so much about what Americans want, what parties want and how candidates communicate.”
A highlight for the group was meeting with Frederick Lee-Ohlssen, Counsellor for Middle East and North America for the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN. “Mr. Ohlssen spent two hours laying out how to negotiate for us: Knowing when to put aside your personal goals and work toward common goals,” Cassie B. recalled. “And then we went back and applied it in our committees immediately afterwards.”
While a few students joked about still making motions when they returned to their daily lives, all agreed that CMUNCE made an impact. Here are a few of their reflections:
- “We’re surrounded by similar people here in Rockland and it was good to be in an environment where you’re learning from people representing six continents. My committee had 30 Model UN kids who were very competitive and it made me want to be more competitive, too.” – Sam M., junior
- “After speaking up in a room full of strangers, I’m less shy about raising my hand in class.” – Jake F., junior
- “I felt so accomplished. We’re surrounded by all of these genius kids and you rise to their level.” – Jacob G., junior and Club Co-Secretary, who returned from Lincoln’s Cabinet to study for his AP US History midterm
- “When you’re in class, it can be hard to stay interested sometimes, But when you’re in it (CMUNCE), it makes you care and get excited about things you might not otherwise be interested in.” – Noah K., sophomore
- “When I came home, sitting in my car, I thought that this was one of the best experiences of my life.” – Jack B., junior, who discovered that his grandfather had been a member of his college’s Model UN team, something he hopes to pursue himself.
“What I find most meaningful about Model UN is seeing students get hooked on a topic and exploring it,” noted Mr. Patmos. “They know a lot, and learn a lot, and this all comes into play at once. And what they learn is not just historical or political content, but lessons about perspective and people and themselves.”
The 2019 TZHS CMUNCE delegates were: Lucy B. (Co-Secretary), Cassie B. (President), Jack B., Nick B., Jake F., Jacob G. (Co-Secretary), Noah K., Ben L. (Treasurer), Sam M., Kavitha S., Toby S., and Lola W.
Club officers are planning a Saturday committee this spring to provide all Model UN members with a CMUNCE-type experience.
Below: TZHS Model UN members at CMUNCE XVIII (left) and with advisor Martin Patmos at TZHS (right).