Parker Holds Second Model UN Conference


Photo credit: Jenna Mansueto

Delegates in the UN Human Rights Council raise their placards in the new library.

In early November of last year, you could find then-sophomore Sammy Kagan rummaging around Upper School History Teacher Jeanne Barr’s room. Among assorted papers, he stumbled upon a wrinkled name tag from 2013 inscribed with “FWPMUN”–the name of Parker’s Model United Nations conference led by Sammy Bensinger ‘13 in 2013. Almost a year and a half from the Kagan — now a junior — helped to lead another Parker Model United Nations conference (FWPMUN II) as its Secretary-General. The conference took place at Parker on Saturday, January 27.

“I found this name tag,” Kagan said, “and I was thinking, ‘It would be great if we could do this again.’”

This first time Parker hosted such a conference, in 2013, there were ~180 students, and this year the number increased to ~215.

“There was a sense of pride,” Kagan said, “as I watched the day unfold.”  

Conference administrator and senior Grace Buono said, “Sammy thought of the idea for the conference, organized the logistics, organized our entire staff, and made sure the conference actually functioned.”

His enthusiasm for this project helped him gain support from the community. Director-General Felicia Miller said, “He just seemed so excited about this idea he had about hosting at Parker.”

According to senior and Model UN captain Olivia Levine, the Model UN club itself has only hosted one conference since the beginning of its history. This year, a FWPMUN staff was comprised separately from the MUN club. “I think the reason this didn’t become an annual thing was because Sammy Bensinger was a senior at the time,” Kagan said, “so she had to leave immediately after.”

All they needed was a faculty sponsor, a few willing and eager students, and time. Upper School History Teacher Jeanne Barr could not fill the position as faculty sponsor as she already was the advisor for Model UN itself, one of Parker’s biggest clubs.

Andrew Bigelow, Upper School history teacher, became the choice for a faculty sponsor. “I have always wanted to advise Model UN ever since I got to Parker,” Bigelow said, “because my degree is in government.”

15 Upper School students led FWPMUN, meeting on Tuesdays in Bigelow’s room. They are all getting official credit for this work as an independent study. The students in charge are sophomores Adele Lowitz, Avani Kalra, Paige Shayne, Jack Laser, and Lindsay Carlin; juniors Kagan, Shafaie, Mabrey-Wakefield, Miller, Emma Butler-Vanderlinden, Galia Newberger, and Jack Mailing, and seniors Felix Wood, Buono, and Ray Blickstein.  

In addition to the 15 dedicated students who organized the conference, other Parker students–including freshmen–took part in the running of FWPMUN. Separate from the students who met weekly, 14 other students made up the crisis and assistant chairs staff. “It’s important for freshmen to be involved,” Kagan said, “so they can find their passion for Model UN.”  

“It was a really good first MUN experience to participate in,” Parker freshman Zoey Blickstein said, “because it was at my own school.”

One of the highlights of the conference according to a delegate from St. Ignatius was the keynote speaker, former ambassador to the Court of St. James Louis Susman. “He told a lot of personal stories about his life,” a student from St. Ignatius said, “and it was a lot more interesting than some of the other ones I’ve been to.”  

At the conference, one delegate from Lyons Township said, “The use of technology in this conference is really helpful.” Each room featured a TV or a projector to show the resolutions and other documents for the whole room to see.

Conferences around the city and country are held by various schools, and Parker has attended conferences at St. Ignatius College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep, and Glenbrook South High School for some years.

FWPMUN was not meant to be very different from those held across the city at other schools.  The goal was for it to run effectively and efficiently.“We are not reinventing the wheel here,” Kagan said. “Our goal is to produce a fantastic, well- oiled conference.”

Bigelow agreed. He said, “What makes it different is that our culture, our beliefs, our philosophy is going to be integrated into this conference.”

The Parker culture was shown in the behind the scenes work done. While it conference like SIMUN, a program for organizing a conference has been in place for over a decade FWPMUN II was essentially built from scratch this year. Kagan said, “Parker is the sort of community which encourages students to pursue their passions and supports them in their endeavors.”

Throughout the planning process, the FWPMUN team ran into a few problems. According to Kagan, Originally the conference was planned for February 3rd. When very few schools signed up, the team realized that there was another conference planned on the same date. After some quick problem solving, they had to problem solve by then contacting St. Ignatius and Lyons Township in order to see when they’d be available in the hopes that more schools would follow.

Barr watched them as they worked through the complication. She said, “Their problem-solving skills are a sign of how well they work together.”

The MUN team at Parker has won numerous awards at other schools and even gone abroad annually to different countries around the world to show off our students. Barr said, “This is a chance for Parker to, in a way, return the favor.”  

During the conference, Kagan and Miller went among the committee rooms and asked for feedback. “I would ask questions like, ‘Are you having fun?’ and ‘Would you like to see a FWPMUN III?”’ Kagan said, “and there were lots of positive answers.  It is my sincere hope for the conference to be put on again next year.”