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‘We did that, that was us’

High school’s model UN conference features TV host

Special to The Sun: This year’s UN event at Moorestown High included historical committees; a committee on political struggles in Eastern Europe; a panel on religion in the state; and a panel on women in government in the Middle East.

After months of planning and preparation, Moorestown High School’s 2023 Model UN conference MooMUN did not disappoint.

“We’ve both been doing Model UN since freshman year, so we have four years of experience,” said Raghav Akula, co-secretary general of Moorestown’s Model UN, of himself and Priya Panganamamula, also co-secretary general.

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“This is kind of like hosting our own conference,” Akula added of the Feb. 4 event. “It’s kind of like the culmination of Model UN, getting to host it as seniors as co-secretaries.”

According to the official website for the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations General Assembly and its other multilateral bodies. Students perform an ambassador role while debating topics such as gender equality, climate action and global health.

The high school is a member of the South Jersey Model United Nations Consortium, along with Haddonfield Memorial, Eastern Regional and Clearview Regional high schools, as well as Camden County Technical Schools. 

According to https://hello.familyid.com, the consortium combines the resources of its members to encourage high-school student experiences and   the learning of international perspectives sometimes inconsistent with the students’ own.

“Most of these conferences, they take briefs from online from old briefs that were used by colleges, but we started this our sophomore year,” Panganamamula explained. “Our students write their own briefs and we design our own committees based on current events.”

She and Akula explained that this year’s UN event included historical committees; a committee on political struggles in Eastern Europe; a panel on religion in the state; and a panel on women in government in the Middle East, among others.

“All of them we just tried to base on what’s going on in the world right now, and our overarching theme for the conference was political turmoil in a polarized world,” Akula explained.

This year’s conference was the first one in person in three years, and featured seven committees, with 245 students in attendance.

“This was completely new territory, by far our largest conference we’ve ever hosted,” Akula pointed out. “This was coincidently our 20th anniversary, too, so all of this was happening …

“Even our advisor didn’t really know how to navigate it because it (was) the largest number that we’ve ever seen.”

This year’s MooMUN featured guest speaker John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” and Akula shared how he helped pull off the impossible by getting Oliver there.  

“Last year, my English teacher from freshman year told me that she’s friends with John Oliver’s wife …,” he recalled. “They know each other well because they went to Moorestown High School together …

“It just popped into my mind, because at that point, we had already reached out to other guest speakers.”

Oliver committed to the event, but there were challenges, including timing a Zoom call with the TV host.

“I wanted to keep this a surprise from everyone, a complete secret,” Akula acknowledged. “It was just so tough having to coordinate … I got (Panganamamula) and then we needed to write out our opening ceremony speech. And then time it so that we can tell exactly what time that he needed to be on the Zoom call,” Akula added of Oliver.

“We were staying up until 1-1:30 in the morning the night before the conference,” Panganamamula said.

But seeing their peers’ reaction was everything for Akula and Panganamamula.

“I love the video; I’ve been watching the video over and over again,” Akula said of the moment Oliver appeared onscreen.

“People were so excited, we had an announcement play over the loudspeaker when we got back to school about it, and everyone was like, ‘Oh my God,’” Panganamamula remembered.

“I’m sure half the school didn’t even know Model UN was still a thing.” 

The task of bringing Oliver onboard taught Akula and Panganamamula a valuable skill.

“This Model UN experience (was) the most amount of professional emails we’ve ever had to write,” Akula observed. “We’re emailing everyone, we’re emailing restaurants … We’re emailing other schools and their advisors …  Emailing someone as big as John Oliver’s executive assistant was actually good.”

Panganamamula and Akula both cherish the memories created by MooMUN 2023.

“We did that, that was us,” Akula said of himself and Panganamamula.


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