SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- On Jan. 9th and 10th, student delegates from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School’s (SPFHS) Model United Nations chapter participated in a series of intense debates and discussions with hundreds of student delegates from other New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware high schools via Zoom.

Under advisors Brooke Oels and Erin McGowan Sassaman, social studies teachers, the high school's Model UN delegates have been preparing for their conference since the beginning of the school year. In the past, the event would usually take place in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and students enjoyed a weekend of chocolate and networking amongst civic-minded peers. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been restricted to four Zoom meetings. In these conferences, students dressed in business attire with their cameras on while engaging with the other members.

“We weren’t exactly sure what to expect this year. Part of the ‘Model UN experience’ has always been meeting people from different schools and forming those alliances and then socializing once all the business of the day is done,” Sassaman said. “But the students really stepped up and did a great job with their roles. They put in the time and, from what we saw and heard, all really put their best efforts in!

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The SPFHS chapter as a whole earned the Honor of Outstanding Delegation. Junior Riya Kishen was named Premier Diplomat for Security Council A, and was elected to serve as 2022 officer for Security Council A. Kishen is also one of the 20 students selected to serve on the Conference on National Affairs, an annual, week-long conference where students all over the country come together to exchange ideas and discuss national issues.

“I’m completely shocked,” Kishen said. “I remember walking in Freshman year seeing the poised chair of Security Council A and wondering how anyone could have that much confidence and maturity at just 16 or 17 years old. I’ve grown so much these last three years and to be offered the chance to serve as chair, I’ve come to realize that I’ve grown into a role model for other people, the same role model I looked up to freshman year.”

Junior Youth, and SPFHS Youth Secretariat, Audrey Gabbai earned the honor of being named Premier Diplomat in Political and Security Council A. Freshman Olivia Gomez was named Outstanding First Year Delegate for her work in Security Council B.

While COVID-19 had taken a toll on extracurricular activities and school life at the high school, it didn’t stop clubs like Model UN from engaging in their passion.   

“Being chair of Security Council is something so special and to be awarded that honor is something I’m so thankful for,” Kishen said. “Besides the fun of being able to whack a gavel, taking on the responsibility of being a leader amongst my peers is a huge challenge that I’m ready to rise up to. While being chair is amazing, I’m really just looking forward to what I’ve gained these last three years in Model UN, amazing friendships and unforgettable experiences.”

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