Student-run Model UN lands three honors at Yale
There are a lot of words that come to mind when describing COVID-19.
For Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Jack Perenick ’21 and Michelle Itkin ’22, a key word for them would “adapt.”
When the school’s Model United Nations program shut down at the Academy in 2020-21 due to the coronavirus, it was a devastating blow to many members of the popular class.
Jack and Michelle, though, refused to go a school year without their favorite extracurricular activity. They took action, forming a student-run group “to connect WMA students to international affairs and discourse on world events,” said Jack, the team’s president.
“This year has required a significant willingness to adapt, and the Model U.N. world has been no different. When Michelle and I saw how difficult it would be to keep up our usual Model U.N. program, we decided to take advantage of the situation and start the WMA International Relations Association.”
The result of their efforts was nothing short of astounding. At the conclusion of the Yale Virtual Model U.N. Conference, held Jan. 21-24, three WMA students – Jack, Michelle and Madeleine Soukup ’22 - earned honorable delegate awards for their performance during the U.N. Committee simulations. Only the top five-percent of participants received awards.
Eleven WMA students took part in the four-day event, which included 7-10 hours of opening ceremonies, an admissions panel, speakers, lectures by Yale professors, and approximately 16 hours of committee sessions.
Jack represented The Kingdom of Denmark in the World Bank.
“In my committee, we spent the weekend debating how to change global trade policy to adapt for the world after the pandemic,” he described. “We also discussed how World Bank funds should be allocated in the future to better prepare for and reduce the devastation of global disasters.
“Just like many Model U.N. sessions, by the fourth day we arrived at a compromise, driven by hours of debate, resolution drafting, and amendment, not to mention unofficial consensus-making negotiations.”
Michelle served as a delegate for the State of Israel in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“Our goal was to write a resolution on the future of the committee in regards to the war in Afghanistan,” explained Michelle, vice-president of WMA’s program. “In the end I wrote and passed a resolution forming an overlap committee joining NATO and a new ‘Near-Eastern Coalition’ that would provide aid to the region and facilitate peace talks with the Taliban.”
Meanwhile, Madeleine was a representative for Lithuania in the United Nations Economic, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“This was my first Model U.N. conference so I was unsure of what to expect, especially since the conference was virtual,” Madeleine said. “My goal was to speak at least once per committee session to get my points across. My resolution was not passed, but I did merge with several groups prior to the final resolutions and was able to keep many of my points.”
WMA often wins an award – maybe two - at the annual Harvard Model U.N. event, typically held in Boston, Massachusetts in January. But three, and by a student-created program? That may be a first.
“It was an excellent opportunity to return to YMUN and debate in committee, listen to lectures from Yale faculty, and again be recognized with a delegate award, among some of the other WMAIRA members,” Jack said. “I hope WMA can continue to attend YMUN in future years, and our students can continue to learn about international relations and discuss global events.”