WHS attends first Model UN conference following COVID-19


Photo courtesy of Daniel Farabaugh

The Westfield delegation at the 2023 YMCA Model United Nations conference

For the first time since January 2020, the annual YMCA Model United Nations conference was held in person at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA from Jan. 6-8.

With COVID-19 no longer posing a major threat to attendees, delegates from across New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland were able to meet and debate world issues on behalf of their assigned countries.

Despite being held virtually the past two years, the conference functioned similarly to how it did prior to the pandemic. A major change, however, was the number of students in attendance. This year there were about 900 delegates at the conference, a notable decline from the almost 2,000 during previous in-person years.

WHS Model UN Advisor David Della Fera attributed this drop in attendance to the suspension of in-person conferences. Della Fera said, “Every year, kids typically come back to tell other kids how great it was and that’s how our numbers grow. Because for the past two years the conference was virtual, we lost a lot of kids just because the attraction of being able to go away for three days wasn’t there.”

The thrill of a three-day trip is a factor influencing some kids to attend the conference. Freshman and first-year delegate Logan Welsh decided to attend after hearing that his older brother enjoyed it. “It’s a lot of fun, even though it sounds boring,” he said.

Along with debating global issues, there are times when attendees can have fun with friends. Students spend time in hotel rooms at night, eat meals together and there is a dance on the last night, which was a highlight for Welsh.

For Chaperone Dana Kickey it was interesting to see high school students debate complex world issues. Kickey said, “To see what these kids are able to put forth and discuss issues that I had no idea about was amazing.”

There are various committees at the conference, such as the General Assembly and the Economic and Finance Committee. For each of these committees, there are officers who moderate the debates. One such officer was WHS senior Pat Lanza, who served in the General Assembly.

Lanza’s unique perspective at the conference allowed him to not only focus on how he participated, but how others did. Lanza said, “Just seeing kids talk about their experience is really heartwarming and it’s my favorite part of the conference.”

WHS contributed greatly to this year’s conference in terms of both numbers, being one of the largest delegations present, as well as through the quality of their debating. WHS Model UN Advisor Daniel Farabaugh said, “The students at this year’s conference performed exceedingly well and took part in a very high level of debate. I heard nothing but praise for their performance from other advisors.”

Awards are distributed each year at the conference. Two WHS students won Outstanding Research Paper, four won Outstanding First-Year Delegate and two won Premier Diplomat. WHS juniors Grace Kim and Emory Wilner were elected to serve as officers at next year’s conference.

Seniors Nyah Wysokowski and Pat Lanza, junior Emory Wilner and sophomores Ananda Accardi and Michael Fisher were selected as nominees to participate in the Conference of National Affairs, which takes place in Black Mountain, NC during July.

After such a remarkable return to the conference, WHS looks to bring an even larger delegation to next year’s conference, potentially increasing attendance to pre-pandemic levels.