HAMUN keynote speaker Melissa Kilby, executive director of Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation initiative that supports and promotes female leadership.
Although so much feels different in our daily lives these days, the curiosity to understand global issues and generate solutions lives on, as evidenced by more than 100 students from across the D.C. area participating in the Holton-Arms Model United Nations Conference (HAMUN) on Oct. 17. For the first time in the event’s 16-year history, it was held virtually.
The new digital format was not anyone’s first choice, but HAMUN Secretary General Emme Pastor ’22 and fellow Model U.N. leaders felt strongly that they needed to find a way to offer the conference for peers this fall.
“It was the first Model U.N. conference I ever attended back when I was a freshman,” Emme recalls. “I walked out of it so excited—I’d fallen in love with Model U.N. So I was very set on having the conference this year because it was such an important moment for me.”
Emme explains that HAMUN is a “learning conference,” meaning it is designed to help newer “delegates”—particularly middle school students—build skills and confidence. It’s also meant to help more advanced delegates refine their skills before bigger conferences.
“Regardless of students’ level, they end up learning from their fellow delegates,” Emme says.
The HAMUN team worked hard to preserve as much of the conference’s spirit and structure as possible, including the usual impressive keynote that kicks off the day. This year’s speaker was Melissa Kilby, executive director at Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation initiative that supports and promotes female leadership. She spoke about how she landed her current role, the important work the organization does, and how students can (and why they should) help advance gender equality, regardless of their gender.
In keeping with tradition, students then broke into committees led by Holton Upper School Model U.N. members, where they debated and presented solutions to issues raised. Committee topics ranged from microplastics, to COVID-19’s impact on the poor, to protecting journalists’ rights, and students represented countries across the world, including Nigeria, Singapore, Croatia, and the U.K.
HAMUN organizers were slightly nervous about attendance for the virtual event, but were thrilled with the turnout, which included over 100 lower, middle, and upper school students from nine schools across the region. “We even had some fifth-grade delegates,” Emme says proudly.
New Holton Middle School Model U.N. advisor Jessica Ozimek was impressed by the event, its student leaders, and Middle School participants. “I think the conference was a highlight for many students,” she says. “Our Middle School students actively participated in their committees, and even students new to Model U.N. jumped into their committee debates, learning the procedures and protocols as the discussions unfolded.”
Caroline Goldstein ’25 was among the Holton Middle Schoolers who leapt right into HAMUN. “Some highlights of the conference for me were saying my first point ever, learning new words in Model U.N., and learning new facts about my topic in other countries and in the world,” she says.
Fellow Middle School Model U.N. members shared how much they enjoyed interacting with delegates from other area schools, as well as with the Holton Upper School leaders, whom they felt worked hard to make sure everyone felt included and understood what to do.
For Emme, the experience was a rewarding full-circle moment. “I popped into all the committees and could see such a difference between the beginning and the end of the event,” she says. “Just like my own experience, at the beginning, students were reserved. But later, everyone was talking and writing and researching their papers together.”
“From the feedback we got,” she says, “students still had a lot of fun and learned a lot, even though HAMUN was virtual. I’m so glad we were able to give them that experience.”
Contributing Author: Jessica Ozimek, Middle School History & MS Model U.N. Advisor
HAMUN delegates participating in the Human Rights Committee 2: Human Rights Relating to the Freedom of Religion.
HAMUN committee chairs (Upper School Model U.N. members) meeting to plan prior to the conference.