Debate and Chocolate: Model UN Hopes to Return to In-Person Conference Next Year


Photo courtesy of Erin Sassaman

Elizabeth Diamond, Staff Writer

The past two years have looked different for the members of Model UN when it came to their annual conference in January.

Just two weeks before the conference took place, the club found out that it would have to be held virtually for the second year in a row. Although students missed out on the thrilling experience of going to Hershey Park, they were still able to engage in a virtual conference that, in more ways than one, allowed them to step outside of their comfort zones.

Members of Model UN quickly learned to adapt to the virtual environment and were able to overcome the many obstacles that came with communicating through a computer screen.

U.S. History I teacher at SPFHS, Erin Sassaman, has been the advisor for Model UN for at least five years so far and has gotten to know the students who became involved in the club.

From the beginning of the school year up until January, when the conference takes place, Sassaman helps the members to prepare their roles, research papers and become more familiar with debating. Over the years, she has seen many different students become interested in what Model UN has to offer and learn how to better their own public speaking and debate skills.

“I think it’s nice to be able to see students in a different setting and see groups of kids that maybe aren’t the most talkative in class have a place where they can have a different sort of strength that maybe you don’t get to see on an everyday basis, but then they find their thing here,” Sassaman said.

One of the officers for Model UN, Riya Kishen, has been apart of Model UN since freshman year and has loved every minute of it.

Kishen particularly loved the many connections she made while being apart of the club with other students from all over the country that share a common interest in civic engagement.

“Overall it just shapes you into a better leader and a better person…It teaches you to understand other people’s viewpoints,” Kishen said.

Above all, both Kishen and other members agree that Model UN has left a great impact on who they are as a person today.

“I think Model UN is the reason I’ve become such like a big leader in even my other things when it comes to like music or whatever other activities I do…just because of the confidence that it gave me,” Kishen said.

Kishen recalls how as a freshman, she was scared to speak in committees and engage with other members of the team. However, over the course of four years, she was able to grow and become the person she is now – one who leads her committee and the delegation as well as gives speeches in front of groups of people. If there’s one thing she was able to improve on through Model UN, it was her public speaking abilities.

Next year, Kishen hopes to expand the skills she learned while in Model UN by taking part in the United Nations program that is offered at her university. By becoming more engaged with both politics and activism in various ways, Kishen looks forward to taking the “Model” out of Model UN and getting involved in bigger things that goes beyond the club.

When asked about what she would say to students thinking of joining the club, Sassaman strongly encouraged students to “go for it”, as you never know where something as simple as joining a high school club may lead you.

For next school year, members of Model UN are extremely excited to hopefully return back to an in-person conference and get to experience the trip to Hershey once again.