Model UN Brings Home a Win After Their Final Conference of the Year

On March 24 and 25, the Model UN team participated in Thomas Jefferson High School’s TechMUN conference. Freshmen Disha De and Mahima Pakalapati brought home a win, placing fourth in their committee.

On March 22, the Model United Nations club (MUN) held their last meeting before heading off to Thomas Jefferson High School on March 24 and 25 for their final conference of the season, TechMUN. 

Model UN is a club in which participants act as members of the United Nations, an international organization founded in 1945 to foster communication between countries. Currently, the UN has 193 member states, and MUN has thousands of student participants worldwide. This year’s MUN team–led by Mr. Mobley, Ms. Karapetyan, and seven officers–has 104 members.

MUN members can partake in conferences where students from different schools compete and get a chance to practice public speaking, leadership, and diplomacy. Sophomore Saanvi Movva first tried MUN in 7th grade and has felt a change in her feelings over time. “I think it shifted for me from being scary and something I don’t look forward to, to something more fun,” Movva said. “It helped me develop my personality a lot.” 

MUN can help students learn more about working with others, too. Sophomore Nitya Matcha, who joined MUN halfway through ninth grade, has learned that you have to adapt your personality so that people listen to you. “You have to appeal to the people,” Matcha said. “I think I learned this the hard way. You have to be likable in order to win, but at the same time you have to be unlikable enough to assert yourself.”

Freshmen Disha De and Charvi Krishnan practice their intro speech at Model UN’s last meeting before TechMUN. (Melissa Waas)

This year, the Thomas Jefferson Model UN Team hosted its 30th annual TechMUN conference, called TechMUN XXX. TechMUN is one of the most attended conferences on the East Coast. This year, the event involved over 125 staffers, over 900 delegates (students representing countries) from Maryland and Northern Virginia, and a record-breaking 21 committees (groups of delegates). The committees ranged from “World Nuclear Association (WNA)” and “Chirp Chirp: Twitter Board of Directors 2047” for middle school students to “World Food Programme (WFP)” and “A New Era: Black Panther” for high school students.

“I wanted to go to TechMUN because our school doesn’t have a lot of conferences really,” Movva said. “I feel like TechMUN, honestly, has the best topics, like right now we’re doing the Hunger Games one. They have the most creative ones.”

At TechMUN, several Rock Ridge delegates opted to compete in a crisis committee titled “JCC Hunger Games: The Council of Chaos” or another crisis committee titled “JCC Hunger Games: The District Tributes.” Crisis committees have more power than traditional committees in that they focus on producing action rather than just building consensus. They are more fast-paced and dynamic, meaning that each delegate is incredibly influential, according to Model United Nations of the University of Chicago. Throughout the event, “crisis updates” are presented, and delegates must work to quickly draft and vote on “public directives.”

The Hunger Games crisis committee is based on the Suzanne Collins YA-dystopia series of the same name. Participants are put in a world of chaos 75 years after the start of the Hunger Games. After two teenagers disrupted the existing structure of the last-one-standing, life-or-death games by both surviving, many rebellions started. MUN delegates part of  “the Council of Chaos” are tasked with continuing the Hunger Games as normal while those part of  “the District Tributes” are faced with a choice between cooperation or rebellion. 

All in all, the team competed against 54 delegations consisting of a total of 104 people. By the end of the conference, one team was able to secure a victory in their committee, the Disarmament and International Security Committee, which focused on “the use of drones in warfare” and “combating illicit arms trade and trafficking of weapons.” Freshmen Disha De and Mahima Pakalapati represented the Delegation of Columbia and won fourth place for “Verbal Accommodation.” This year was the first time both have been in Model UN.

“We weren’t expecting it because going into this conference, we were told it’s really big and competitive,” De said. “We didn’t believe we were going to place at all, but then when we did, we got fourth, which was not the best, but we were still happy with that because no one else from Rock Ridge [placed]. With that, it was kind of cool to have that under our belt and use it as motivation for future conferences.”

For Pakalapati, participating in Model UN conferences like TechMUN has been a way to find herself. “It helps you grow your persona and expose certain parts of your personality and make you seem more approachable, diplomatic, and knowledgeable,” Pakalapati said. “It will change how you view yourself, because you have to work on your personality and how you speak to others.”

Despite not winning, delegates still enjoyed the conference and used it as another opportunity to grow their skills. Matcha was able to try crisis for the first time as part of the Hunger Games Tributes committee. “I felt great at TechMUN,” Matcha said. “It was pretty stressful for me to learn everything right then and there, but overall, I think after you get the gist of it, you’ll be okay.”

To wrap up MUN’s post-conference meeting on March 29, senior Sanketh Edara, MUN captain, challenged freshman Disha De to do a mock MUN about what the best movie is. De opted to argue for “Jurassic Park,” citing its iconic soundtrack. Her opponent, freshman Nila Divakar, countered with the emotional appeal of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
To wrap up MUN’s post-conference meeting on March 29, senior Sanketh Edara, MUN captain, challenged freshman Disha De to do a mock MUN about what the best movie is. De opted to argue for “Jurassic Park,” citing its iconic soundtrack. Her opponent, freshman Nila Divakar, countered with the emotional appeal of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” (Sydney Nguyen)

The Wednesday after the conference,  March 29, MUN members met in the library after school to discuss their TechMUN experiences. For the next hour or so, the library was filled with anything from laughter, to advice, to frustration, and ultimately a just-for-fun mock MUN where members volunteered to give impromptu speeches on topics like “What’s the best movie of all time?” or “Who’s the best non-rap musical artist of all time?” Beyond the entertainment, the mock was also meant to help members develop the skills necessary to succeed in MUN. For example, the latter prompt was debated in a question-and-answer format where members were encouraged to ask their opponents questions that would be challenging to answer. 

Even with their last official conference over, the season is not completely done. A couple of members continue to find their own conferences to attend outside of Rock Ridge’s team, such as De and Pakalapati who attended WHSMUN V in mid-April, hosted by Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. For others though, it has been a victorious season, now over. “This year, as a more experienced member, I definitely felt more prepared to do some of the stuff,” Matcha said. “This year, I won my first-ever award, and I think that was all thanks to actually knowing what to do.”