Robbinsville High School Model UN Brings Home10 Awards from National Conference

Annual Night of Nations Fundraiser Scheduled for March 27


Autonomous weapons raise complicated questions that challenge even the most seasoned diplomats, legal scholars and war ethicists, but Allison Dera wasn’t fazed.

“It’s really balancing state sovereignty, countries’ security interests and humanitarian causes,” said Dera, explaining the geo-political nuances of the topic in a recent interview. “It’s a very difficult balancing act because you have to keep so many factors in mind.”

The Robbinsville High School senior confronted the issue as part of her work in Model UN, an international education program in which students simulate the United Nations General Assembly and debate world affairs.

Dera, vice president of Robbinsville High School’s Model UN club, was in Washington, D.C. in February for the North American Invitational Model United Nations, where she worked to get a resolution passed that outlined how countries can mitigate fully autonomous weapons systems. Her measure sought to codify into international humanitarian law limits on the capabilities of such weapons and when they can be used.

It’s just one example of the complex and urgent problems that Robbinsville students are addressing in Model UN — and their success with it.

Last month, the club brought home 10 awards from BosMUN XXII, Boston University’s Model United Nations Conference. Students won best position paper and outstanding delegate, in addition to verbal recognitions and honorable mentions. The awards highlighted students’ writing and arguments, communication, diplomacy and collaboration with others.

Before the Boston conference, students submitted papers identifying their chosen country’s positions on issues. Topics included global human trafficking, sustainability and the future of Congress. Students then debated the issues and voted on resolutions — policy documents detailing how countries can work together to solve the problem at hand.

The conference, held February 10-12, drew about 1,500 students from schools all over the nation and was the biggest competition the club has participated in since the COVID-19 pandemic began. For the past two years, Robbinsville’s Model UN club participated only in mock events within the school and in virtual competitions.

“It was a pretty big deal for us to do so well because we really hadn’t competed since COVID,” club adviser Mark Iannelli said.

Robbinsville’s team also earned six awards, including two first-place finishes, at the Rutgers Model United Nations conference in November. That competition drew about 800 students, mostly from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

To qualify for travel competitions, Robbinsville Model UN members must do well in mock events at the high school. These events entail writing position papers and debating with peers on various committees.

The experience has been life changing for Hammad Farooqi, the club’s president, who said Model UN has helped him grow as a student, leader and person.

“Model UN is a great club to build your public speaking skills and team-building skills by taking on the roles of different countries tackling important issues,” Farooqi said. “As a freshman I don’t think I was very confident, but through this role I was able to take on a new persona.”

The Robbinsville senior said although the work is demanding, he has enjoyed meeting people and forging new friendships. He plans to attend Princeton University in the fall to study computer science.

“The dream would be to have my own start-up and develop my own software, to be able to apply my love for computer science to the type of leadership roles in a team like we have at Model UN,” Farooqi said.

As for Dera, she is scheduled to travel to Madrid, Spain, later this month to compete in the Harvard Model Congress Europe competition with the All-American Model UN team. After graduation this year, the 18-year-old plans to attend McGill University in Montreal and wants to work in international development.

“I would like to work in economically developing regions of the world, addressing economic systems, public infrastructure systems, maybe even for the World Bank or a non-profit organization,” Dera said.

Robbinsville High School Model UN will host its annual fundraiser, Night of Nations, on Monday, March 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Club members will give presentations about different countries and prepare authentic cuisine.

Robbinsville High School Model UN club members at BosMUN XXII, Boston University’s Model United Nations Conference, in February.

Robbinsville High School Model UN club members who won awards at BosMUN XXII, Boston University’s Model United Nations Conference.

Robbinsville High School Model UN club members at the Rutgers Model United Nations conference in November.

Robbinsville High School Model UN club’s executive team.

Robbinsville High School Model UN club’s fall mock event.