062320 MS54 Special Email: Annual Model UN Report
Annual Model UN Report
At this time of year, it is customary to publish an account of all that MS54’s Model UN delegation accomplished at the various conferences it attends at the end of the year. However, because of the COVID pandemic, all the conferences were cancelled – conferences which the delegates had spent many months preparing for meticulously and with great dedication. Yet, after that major disappointment, the delegates took some exceptional steps which deserve, far more than the laurels of the past, to be recognized.
On Monday, March 15, 2020, the first day of the quarantine and a week before remote classes began, members of the delegation, of their own volition, decided to reconstitute the Gazette, a daily in-house newspaper that our delegates have been publishing for over ten years. Though the Gazette is usually a place for publishing debate and research in the period before the conferences, the delegates repurposed it. Throughout the years, delegates had studied events like 9/11 and the 2008 Financial Crisis and the effects of both of these on society. For them, these events were fascinating and important but inscrutable from the point of view of the individual human being. Therefore, the delegates decided to create a daily publication to record their own experiences of an event which even at the start they understood was epochal.
The Special Gazette was published seven days a week, without pause, from Tuesday, March 17h to Tuesday, June 9th, exactly three months. It went through 80 issues. In it, delegates wrestled with the deaths of family members, their fears about parents who were front-line workers and their eventual separation from them, the feeling of wearing a mask for the first time, the difficulties of so much screen time, loneliness, distress, conflicts with friends and family and anxiety about total social and economic breakdown. Some wrote fearlessly about their lives with parents suffering from underlying conditions. Some even wrote about having COVID themselves. Others analyzed the numbers coming out around the world. In the last phase, they published their first reactions to the killing of George Floyd and the societal upheavals that immediately followed it. In the end, by persisting against the odds, these young men and women created a richly-detailed account of life at this time. They also sustained each other.   
At the same time, they pursued extended projects in its pages. Three delegates wrote a daily commentary on every chapter of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. Another summarized page after page of Descartes’ Meditations. A fifth did a close reading of Helen Keller’s The World I Live In in its entirety. At the height of the pandemic, a sixth began composing biographical remembrances of individuals who had passed – exploring the meaning of their “inherent dignity”.   A seventh kept a haiku diary, its entries originally whimsical, but then turning a serious corner after her grandmother died from COVID and turning once more as she began to participate in the protests. One delegate, informed by a history of Booker T.’s admissions which she had researched, written and published earlier in the year, undertook a long-form interview with Eliza Shapiro, Times education correspondent. Another created a series about the effects of and responses to COVID in countries far outside the New York bubble. Yet another published a Gazette-like personal account of online learning in the Wall Street Journal. Two more wrote first-person reports of anti-Asian discrimination on the street. With her world consumed by them, another delegate investigated the nature of various technologies. A last showed how, just by paying close attention, we could all turn what appeared most negligible, those minute impressions and interactions that make up our lives, into a life's work. 
Delegates plan to put the issues of the Special Gazette together in book form as both a memento for themselves and a public record. In the latter form, they have resolved to dedicate a copy to Booker T.
In addition, delegates also planned, launched and executed several socially minded initiatives. On a series of long Saturday afternoons, delegates gathered on zoom and wrote letters to patients in the ICU of a Manhattan hospital. These letters were delivered by a Booker T. parent who worked on the floor. On one memorable occasion, delegates had a mini writing workshop to explore how best to write a letter to a patient in a medically induced coma – letters which were then eventually read aloud at bedside. In due time, this project was expanded and delegates wrote to individual workers by name: doctors, nurses, janitors, administrative staff. They researched the duties that each individual held and tailored the gratitude expressed in the letter to pay tribute to their specific labors. Delegates presented their initiative at the all-grade meetings on Wednesdays in order to expand its scope. As the weather improved and some delegates ventured outside for the first time, they embarked on a photography initiative to bring the beauty of spring into the sterile and deathly units where COVID was still being fiercely fought.
Further afield, delegates cooperated with an NGO to create PSAs for distribution in Liberia. These PSAs covered all aspects of COVID prevention as it was then understood – from masks to hand-washing. One especial challenge, and one very much in the spirit of Model UN as an activity, was to create PSAs that would be meaningful and applicable in the context of a developing country. To do it well this meant performing due diligence about the realities of Liberia’s healthcare system, economy and infrastructure. In the end, the delegates produced scores of flyers, posters and infographics that were duly posted to western Africa.
Outside of the delegation proper, many delegates participated as well in District 3’s Model CEC (Community Education Council) where they drafted and presented resolutions about mental health and diversifying admissions.
Finally, after the killing of George Floyd in late May, delegates gathered on one of the Saturday afternoons to draft a series of briefs addressed to the mayor and police chief of Minneapolis, the DA of Hennepin County and the Attorney General of Minnesota. They channeled their tremendous upset into researching the details of the case as they were then understood, researching the relevant Minnesota statutes and recommending an increase in the severity of the sentence of Officer Chauvin, the charging of the other two officers and the banning of the chokehold that Chauvin had employed. Throughout this process they activated the research skills and capacities for critical thinking, rhetoric, argumentation and collaboration which they would have used in simulations and competitions had there been no pandemic. In the kinetic fall-out from the killing, events quickly overtook them and though they had made great progress in drafting the briefs, all three of their demands were just as quickly put in place. Undeterred by this initial success, delegates are planning a new campaign for the long term – to write individualized letters to each justice of the Supreme Court in order to convince them to reconsider the principle of qualified immunity. 
All of these projects were initiated, devised, and driven by the delegates themselves and, thus, enshrine and embody one of the key principles of the United Nations:  self-determination. 
Like everything at Booker T. and beyond, the future of Model UN is not entirely clear. Nevertheless, these seventh and eighth graders, so deserving of commendation for carrying on self-reliantly despite all the difficulties, have preserved what was most important about it for the future. Ultimately this important quality is a reflection of the institution within which the delegation is sustained and without which it would be nothing, the community of Booker T's students, teachers, administrators, support staff, and families. 
Before school ended in March, the 2019-2020 delegates had come in every day before school, given up lunch times and stayed after school for more. These committed individuals are:  Aaron Park, Abraham Stillman, Addie Sutfin, Alira Walker, Amanda Plaxe, Annie Bovitz, Arianna Ahmed, Astrid Clayton, Astrid Harrington, Ava Lehmann, Caroline Fish, Cassandra Bacon, Celia Kahn-Lambert, Charlotte Kim, Chloe Njapa, Daniel Schneiderman, Eitan Katz, Eytan Chen, Gil Friedman, Hattie Saal, Henry Dahl, Hwarin Zoh, Isaac Thomas, Isabel Goldfarb, Jalilah Lamptey, Jayla Lynch, Josephine Yoo, Kaya Jarvis, Kai Costiuc, Kaia Yamaguchi, Kayla Ruano-Lumpris, Lana-Kay Corbel, Leo Schneiderman, Levi Miller, Lucia Gelobter, Madalee Weissman, Maia Dildy, Malena Galletto, Marley Reiner, Maxwell Pohlman, Menna Stephens Roll, Michelle Berman, Mika Mermelstein, Nirvan Mulchandani, Noam Ramot, Nora Torok, Olivia Yim, Ori Mermelstein, Otto Halbhuber, Raina Qorri, Riya Sundaram, Sean Chew, Shaila Castillo Delgado, Sophie Brettschneider, Sophia Tesfaye, Sydney Shankman, Ty Anant, Tyler Lieberman, Ushoshi Das, and Vikram Pallan
MS54 Model UN's delegation is chosen afresh every year. The delegates are seventh and eighth graders recommended by the school's teachers and, as such, are representatives of the school community. In the fall of the year, teachers of math, science, and humanities highlight the members of all their classes who they deem capable of taking on this special commitment. All of their students are considered and, as aggregated teacher interviews and nominations are the basis of selection, no other application is required.
Copyright © 2020 MS54 PTA, All rights reserved.

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