Model U.N. Conference


Sophie Ledden, co-captain of Decatur’s Model UN club, talks to delegates about the most recent convention before speeches are given in the learning connection. Ledden sees opportunity to grow from the conferences not only for new delegates, but for herself. “I’m the captain this year, but I don’t know if I would have been a good captain at all if not for these experiences,” she said.

Decatur’s Model United Nations (UN) club attended their first conference of the year over Halloween weekend.

At these conferences, Model UN students, known as delegates, represent a country and work in teams to form solutions to problems such as urban refugees and animal endangerment. These experiences teach students, like sophomore Chenoa Tyehimba, communication, confidence and innovation skills.

“If you don’t talk, you’re not going to get anything passed,” Tyehimba said. “If you don’t say anything or have any good ideas, you’re a worthless country, especially to the United States.”

This conference was Tyehimba’s first, along with freshmen Sonali Master and Max Tirouvanzian. According to these first-years, the highlights of Model UN conferences are passing notes between countries and learning from the more experienced delegates.

“I thought it was interesting to see the more experienced people,” said Master, who represented Israel on the United Nations High Committee on Refugees (UNHCR). “They said [mine] was a beginner committee, but these people weren’t beginners. They were really good! So it was cool to see how quickly they could come up with a speech and just go.”

Mr. Beau Dominguez, instructor in Decatur’s Model U.N. learning connection, talks to delegates about upcoming Model U.N. According to Sophie Ledden, co-captain of the club, there isn’t a set number of conferences the club will attend this year, making this a new opportunity for the delegates to brush up on their foreign policy negotiating skills.

Master, Tyehimba and Tirouvanzian started their Model UN careers in beginner committees, but delegates have the opportunity to move to more advanced committees as they progress. Decatur’s co-captain, senior Sophie Ledden, participated in an advanced committee this conference.

According to Ledden, advanced committees like Security Council, bring more challenges for delegates to look forward to.

“If you stay overnight, they’ll bang on your door at three a.m. and say, ‘Syria just bombed China!’ or something, so you all have to get up and deal with that.”

But to Ledden, the Model UN experience is about more than crisis simulations. The club is as  much about the people as it is the politics.

“It’s really important to me that we actually are a team instead of just people who go to conferences,” she said. “I would venture to say [this year’s club] is the best group of people I’ve ever seen.”

As co-captain, Ledden inspires this group with her experience and advice on how to make the most out of a conference.

“You can’t progress without any prior information,” Ledden said. “If I threw you into a zebra pen and said, ‘Wrangle and groom these zebras,’ you probably would figure it out eventually, but not until it’s too late.”

Although wrangling those metaphorical zebras was a lot of work, Tirouvanzian thought the conference was well worth the time.

“I wasn’t too excited about spending my whole weekend at a conference, but it turned out to be a good use of my time.”


Photos by Ellie Butterfield