VAHS students win awards at Model UN conference

Scott Girard

Photo submitted. Verona Area High School’s Model UN team took on the role of the Russian Federation at its trip to the Universiy of Chicago this month.

As the Olympic Games in Russia come to a close, a group of 30 Verona Area High School students could probably tell you more about the host country’s national and foreign policies than anything you’ll learn about an athlete competing at the games.

The students are part of the school’s Model United Nations club, led by social studies teacher Jason Knoll, and recently took home nine awards at the Model United Nations of the University of Chicago conference to cap a successful year.

The students played the role of Russia at the conference, a “very difficult country to represent,” Knoll said in an email.

He said that’s because of the country’s often conflicting views with Western industrialized nations.

The Feb. 6-9 conference had around 2,500 student participants and was only the second the group attended this year. Because of the cost, it will also be the last for the season.

Students spent two hours per week before school preparing for the conference, with another four to six outside of school as the conference date approached.

Senior Shahan Zaman, who is one of the team’s captains, called his experience in the group “amazing” since he joined his sophomore year, saying he improved his public speaking, writing, critical thinking and communication skills, among others.

“(I learned) how the world works,” Zaman said. “I never really had that full cohesive knowledge of it.”

On top of that learning, many students said the group’s “family atmosphere” stands out among teams from other schools at the conferences that are often more well-funded and attend more conferences than Verona.

But beating those schools, such as one that attends nearly 10 conferences each year, brings a lot of excitement for the students.

“A lot of us are in it for the educational part, but winning awards on top of it is great,” Zaman said. “It just feels good to see people on my team successful.”

Verona students who received awards were: (Verbal Recognition) Bea Kealy and Zoe Shaw, Commission on the Status of Women; Claire Van Fossen and Leah Hollar, UN High Commission for Refugees; (Honorable Mention) Sydney DeMets and Noah Roberts, Disarmament and International Security Committee; Jen Wagman, South African Cabinet, 1994; Kia Godfriaux, World Cities Summit; (Outstanding Delegation) Conlin Bass, Commonwealth of Independent States, 1992; Jack Childers and Zaman, Historical Security Council, 1980; Taylor Weigel, Interpol; and Riley Grittinger and Nick Hansen, Legal.

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