Over 3,000 delegates attended the National High School Model United Nations Conference (NHSMUN) in New York City this past week from March 6-9, 2013, which was held at the Hilton New York and the United Nations. NHSMUN is a project of the International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA).
Building a School for Haiti
Opening Ceremonies featured keynote speaker Jim Ziolkowski of BuildOn, a non-profit that “builds schools in developing countries while also running afterschool service programs in America’s toughest inner-cities.” Jim shared his story of building a school in Malawi over 20 years ago — during which he and his brother nearly died of malaria — and challenged delegates to find their “ignition” — the spark they need to start the engines of change.
NHSMUN selected BuildOn as its conference charity and set a fundraising goal of $10,000 in order to build a school in Haiti. In the weeks leading up to the conference, NHSMUN promoted BuildOn through Facebook and social media, raising $2,000 before the conference even began. Throughout the conference, committees engaged in various competitions to see who could fundraise the most. By Closing Ceremonies, the conference had raised over $9,000.
If you’d like to help NHSMUN raise the remaining $1,000 required to build a school in Haiti, click here to visit the NHSMUN 2013 BuildOn Page.
Building Teamwork and Technology
NHSMUN Secretary-General Hannah Olliff led a staff of 80+ university students hailing from around the world. Many came from US-based universities, with multiple staff members coming from Georgia Tech, NYU, McGill, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Other staff members came from as far away as Venezuela (Universidad Central of Caracas), Chile (Pontífica Universidade Católica), and Italy (Liceo Scientifico Biagio Pascal).
The conference featured 28 committees, almost all of which were simulations of the United Nations family of organizations (plus the Council of the European Union and the NGO Forum). Around half of the conference’s delegates were in the GA Main Committees — DISEC, ECOFIN, SOCHUM, SPECPOL, and Legal — which had average committee sizes of 300 delegates. NHSMUN also included committees not usually seen at MUN conferences, including the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN-HABITAT, the UN Industrial Development Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and even a UN peacekeeping operation, MONUSCO.
This year’s NHSMUN also built its own mobile app. The NHSMUN app included a conference schedule, committee descriptions, background guides, and a “Community” news feed of tweets and Instagram photos that were tagged with #nhsmun. The app was developed by RHSMUN Secretary-General Devon Tivona.
Building a Community of Advisors
Delegates and advisors came from schools across the United States and around the world, some of whom were attending their first MUN conference ever, and others with established reputations in the MUN community. Around 400 delegates came from Italy, led mainly by the United Network and its advisors Riccardo Messina and Giordano Lorefice.
During Opening Ceremonies, IMUNA Chairman Taylor Parkin recognized advisors who have attended NHSMUN for 5 years or more. Advisors received special pins with a number indicating how many years they’ve attended the conference. The honor of longest-serving advisor went to Lynn Washington of Richland Northeast High School, having attended NHSMUN for 31 years (and who’s even been recognized by the General Assembly of South Carolina!).
As part of IMUNA’s larger mission of “educating young people about global issues through simulation,” NHSMUN offered educational programming in addition to MUN committees. Many schools had the opportunity to visit the UN missions of the countries they represented, which delegates and advisors found not only informative, but even helpful to their performance in committee.
The advisor from Penn Manor High School remarked to me how her delegates, representing Palau, were initially overwhelmed on the first night of the conference, wondering how a small island nation could exert any influence in committee. And then they met the UN Ambassador from Palau, who “set them straight,” explaining how a key principle of the UN is “one country, one vote,” which gives a small island nation like Palau “the same voice as a superpower like China.”
NHSMUN also offered programming specifically for advisors, arranged by Chief of External Relations Lizzie Kirschenbaum. Advisors had the opportunity to attend presentations by various non-governmental organizations, including MicroVest, Women’s Trust, St. John’s University’s Global Microloan Program (GLOBE), BuildOn, and charity: water. I also gave a presentation on “How to Build Your MUN Program,” sharing best practices on training and fundraising.
The advisor programming was great not just for advisors getting to know one another, but for getting them to share their own extensive MUN experience, and the reasons why they keep doing MUN. The advisor from Centennial High School, Eric Medwed, shared with me one of his reasons:
I love watching a student, who knew nothing about their topic two or three months ago, get up in front of their committee, and speak knowledgeably and articulately about it. That’s why I teach MUN.
Research and Preparation Awards
- Merit – 3rd Place: Highland Park High School (Illinois)
- Excellence – 2nd Place: Cerritos High School (California)
- Distinction – 1st Place: Richland Northeast High School (South Carolina)
Foreign Language Awards
- American Institute of Monterrey (Mexico)
- Liceo Statale Dante Algheri (Italy)
- Taipei American School (Taiwan)
- Instituto Andes (Venezuela)
Award of Merit (3rd Place)
- Santa Teresa High School (California)
- Ward Melville High School (New York)
- Northgate High School (California)
- East Brunswick High School (New Jersey)
- American Heritage School (Florida)
Award of Excellence (2nd Place)
- Bay Shore High School (New York)
- Cerritos High School (California)
- Franklin High School (New Jersey)
- Chicagoland Jewish High School (Illinois)
- Highland Park High School (Illinois)
Award of Distinction (1st Place)
- Radnor High School (Pennsylvania)
- Centennial High School (Georgia)
- Mira Costa High School (California)
- Bishop Strachan School (Canada)
- Richland Northeast High School (South Carolina)
Special thanks to Hannah, Lizzie, and Jerry Guo for arranging my visit to NHSMUN. Congratulations to all delegates, advisors, and staff on a successful conference!