McLean hosts Model United Nations conference

School community contributes to host two-day long event


Students raise their placards to vote on a measure. “Participants are really, really passionate about everything they’re doing,” Model United Nations club sponsor Amanda Williams said. “As a teacher, it’s a big moment of pride to see that come out at conferences.”

The air is buzzing with energy as masses of students from 16 schools enter McLean High School ready to compete, meet others and give speeches to represent their countries in this year’s McLean Model United Nations (MUN) conference.

After one year online, McLean High School once again returned to hosting its conference, dubbed “McMUNC,” in person. McLean has been hosting McMUNC for seven years. This year, the school’s Model United Nations club has been planning the conference since May 2021.

“I think it’s a lot more fun for students to get to actually really meet people from other schools and gather. I know that they really enjoy the social aspect of it,” Model United Nations sponsor Amanda Williams said. “We all learned last year that communication is easier face to face.”

The conference is largely run by the club’s student leaders, who help plan all aspects of the conference, from the room setups and food to the notepads that delegates receive. High school MUN conferences are operated at a massive scale—club members and their sponsors must obtain dozens of classrooms for high school and middle school competitions, provide pens and notebooks to delegates, organize troves of student volunteers, order food for lunch on Saturday and ensure all scheduled events run smoothly.

“Speaking for all of us, the most difficult part has been the laundry list of things to do and the fact that you have to think about every little detail,” Williams said. “There’s really just a lot of tasks that have to get done before the conference and our students have really been working hard to check them off the to-do list the past couple of weeks.”

The conference is staffed by club-recruited student volunteers who participate in a variety of roles. Ahead of the event, numerous clubs were informed about the conference and encouraged to promote their members’ participation in the event.

“We have a lot of kids in the Model UN group itself, but we also ask for volunteers because we don’t have enough to run an entire conference on our own,” club sponsor Anneliese Daggett said. “We offer 28 hours of community service,…basically [volunteers] all help to make sure that our visitors are taken care of.”

Volunteering at the event provides many students with their first experience in MUN. The club’s leaders hope that by exposing students to conferences, students will be motivated to join the club next year.

“What we’re trying to do is be able to reach as many people as possible. For McMUNC, especially, it’s an all hands on deck situation,” said senior Yanni Aknine, who is Chief of Staff of the conference. “It is that it gives you first hand exposure to what a committee actually looks like, because it is really scary to go do a committee for real for your first time. Being able to watch it happen rather than actually compete…is really helpful.”

The pandemic has posed a difficult hurdle for the club, which was planning the event in the safest way possible for delegates and volunteers alike. While McLean’s MUN club originally required masks for participation in the event due to concerns about contact tracing, it changed its policy shortly before the start of the conference.

“We planned for upwards of 600 to 800 students to come; we only have 400 to 500. With COVID being what it is, it’s really difficult for students to get here and to be allowed to come,” Daggett said.

Many delegates have also not participated at in-person conferences before, since these events were held online last school year.

“Some delegates from other schools have not had tons of in-person conference experience yet because they had that hybrid component in years past,” Williams said. “I think it is a newer experience for students to actually be in a room of people and speaking to them versus speaking on their computers.”

Despite the challenges associated with the transition to an in-person conference, student leaders enjoy being able to contribute to the successful completion of such a large-scale event.

“I’ve been planning this conference for three years in a row and it’s something that my brother did for two years,” said senior Leah Siegel, who is Secretary-General of the conference.“[I feel fortunate to] be able to say goodbye through an in person conference.”

Beyond the immediate benefits of competing in the event itself, delegates feel that the event allows students to practice skills that are important during school and in the future.

“In talking to the Model UN students, a lot of them have spoken to [the skills they acquire] in public speaking, their collaboration with other people, and their ability to articulate a point,” Williams said. “I think that all of those skills that they’ll get to build at Model UN are really valuable for school, college and the workplace later on.”