A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a chair for Yeshiva University’s National Model United Nations, fondly known as YUNMUN. It is a three-day conference in Stamford, Connecticut, in which students from Jewish Day Schools all over the country come to participate in mock United Nations committees. Over the course of the three days, they try to pass resolutions to solve world problems that they research in advance, as well as deal with crises that they have not prepared for. As a chair, I created the topics that my committee would be discussing, and with the help of my amazing co-chairs, I moderated the discussion and decided which delegates stood out the most.
People ask me, “Why do you want to be staff?” They think that once you are no longer a delegate, it is boring to take part in the conference. You no longer get to argue a country’s position, and have no chance of winning an award, so why take part in it? I would like to argue that the conference experience is just as amazing for a staff member, as it is for a delegate.
Why is it so incredible? Firstly, you meet other passionate YC and Stern students whom you may not have met otherwise. You bond with them over procedure, swap stories about crazy kids in your committee, and compare being a staff member to being a delegate. As a chair, I grew close to my awesome assistant chair and administrative assistant. Over the course of a few days, we went from not really knowing each other to constantly talking to one another for hours on end. I also was able to take part in the Chair Shabbaton before the conference, in which we as chairs were able to review procedure, run last minute errands Motzei Shabbat, and create inside jokes with one another. The media center staff, who are randomly grouped and work together to break out crazy crises, also create bonds that last long after the conference ends.
In addition, being a chair means that you facilitate the growth of the delegates. It was inspiring to see how a delegate, who at first was shy and barely spoke, slowly emerged as a leader who others rallied around. Though I may only know them by the country they are representing and not their real names, I felt so proud each time a quiet delegate spoke up or a leader stood back and let those with less of a presence take charge. Some of the delegates come from smaller schools that do not have Model Congress, Mock Trial, or College Bowl, making Model UN their only chance to demonstrate their intellectual prowess. The delegates learn to cooperate with one another and may form friendships that last years beyond high school. By leading committees, we give these high school students the opportunity to flourish as public speakers, as leaders, and as individuals striving to make the world a better place.
Though it is fun to be a delegate, and I do miss being a part of the debate, the joy of the YUNMUN experience does not have to end when you finish high school. Though the experience is of a different nature, it is still incredibly meaningful, and I am already looking forward to next year’s conference.