Middletown, NJ – Aidan Byrnes, a junior at Red Bank Catholic High School, was elected by his peers to head up the YMCA Model United Nations conference in 2014. Over the next year, Aidan will help decide a theme for the next year’s Regional conference, lead workshops for the officers, and oversee all of the committees, among other responsibilities, to ensure that the conference is a success.
Aidan was among nearly 150 high school and approximately 80 middle school students who represented The Community YMCA at the annual YMCA Model UN Conferences in Hershey, PA., this January.
“This is the first time a Community YMCA delegate has received the distinction of Secretary General,” commented Jackie Normyle, YMCA Teen Development Specialist. “We are proud of Aidan and all of our students for their outstanding efforts at this year’s conferences.”
The goal of the Model UN Program is to create informed students who feel empowered to engender change in their local communities and the world at large. The program attracts students who are proactive and engaged and helps them to see how they can reach their potential and begin to improve the world around them regardless of their age. The theme of this year’s conference was youth empowerment; an idea that was reinforced throughout the weekend.
The students spent the weekend simulating the duties of United Nations ambassadors by writing, presenting, and debating resolutions to address issues of international importance, such as poverty, resource sustainability, freedom of information, and more.
The Community YMCA High School Delegation was comprised of several local schools, including: Holmdel High School, Middletown North, Middletown South, Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank Regional, Christian Brothers Academy, MAST, Communications, Saint John Vianney, Mater Dei, Manasquan, Biotech and more. The conference was attended by over 1,500 delegates from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware and took place over the weekend of Jan. 4-6.
High School honors went to:
Anthony Cendagorta (Saint John Vianney), Chris Lomonaco (Red Bank Catholic), Sam Lore (Red Bank Regional), and Courtney Swanson (Middletown South) won the award for Outstanding Brief in the International Criminal Court.
Tom Toman (RBC) was elected to be the chair of the General Assembly.
SJ Merhi (Holmdel HS) was honored with the Outstanding Research Paper award for the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee.
Jack Chu, also of Holmdel, was elected to be chair of the Council on Economic Advancement.
Tristan Sweeney (Middletown North), was given the distinction of being named the Premier Diplomat of the Historical Security Council.
Matt Vuono (Middletown South) earned the award for Outstanding Research Paper for the World Health Organization
Chelsea Walsh, also of Middletown South, was elected to be Chair of the World Health Organization.
Each year, an elite group of students are extended an invitation to the Conference on National Affairs (CONA). At this year’s conference, two Community YMCA delegates, Aidan Byrnes and Tristan Sweeney, were invited to attend.
The middle school conference focuses on the General Assembly, International Criminal Court and Nation Building Committee in a modified format that allows middle school students to sample these three separate committees.
The junior conference took place over the weekend of Jan 18-20. The Y was represented by eight local schools: Bayshore Middle School, Satz School, Saint James School, Saint Jerome School, Shrewsbury Borough School, Thompson Middle School, Thorne Middle School and Wall Intermediate School. They were joined by 50 of their peers from all over the Northeast region.
Through experiential learning, the students acquired new skills in diplomacy, public speaking, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Each year, the conference concludes with closing ceremonies that recognize students who performed exceptionally well throughout the weekend. The Community YMCA delegation had the distinction of receiving 17 of the 22 awards.
From the Envoy A Committee:
Michael Stefany (Satz), Kyle Kennedy (Bayshore), and Erica Wu (Satz) were recognized with the Outstanding Country Research Paper Award. Matt Smith (Thompson), Linda Ting (Satz), and Thomas Welch (Thorne) were honored with the Premier Diplomat Award.
From the Envoy B Committee:
Shannon Addario (Thompson),and Sean Cuddihy (Thompson) were both given the Outstanding Research Paper Award. Catherine Delgado (Thompson) was awarded the Premier Diplomat Award.
From the Envoy C Committee:
Valerie Taranto (Thompson), Thomas O’Boyle (Thompson) and Dana Stefany (Satz) were awarded for having the Outstanding Country Research Papers. Ethan Ching (Satz) and Patricia Magistrado (Thompson) were commended with the Premier Diplomat Awards for their committees.
Individual Awards went to:
Hari Koganti and Jessica Kuleshov (both Satz) received the Outstanding Country Award representing South Africa, and Harrison Sweeney (Bayshore) was recognized with the Premier Country Award as the delegate from Cambodia.
The YMCA Model UN Conference differs from other Model UN programs in that it is focused on fostering character development in young people. Part of that mission is accomplished by giving high school students the authority to run conference as the officers of their committees.