May 31, 2021 / Hailey Wharram, Co-Editor In Chief
For the past two years, the Steward Model United Nations club has hosted its very own Model UN conference on campus, entitled STEWMUN. The planning of the now yearly STEWMUN conference always has a special way of bringing the club together, making it a truly cherished tradition.
For the first ever STEWMUN during my sophomore year (STEWMUN 2019), I was a delegate. I participated in a Crisis Committee that detailed a fictionalized version of the World in the Year 2050, and within this committee my love for Model UN and diplomacy deepened through the opportunity to engage in debate with my fellow Steward classmates.
During my junior year, I was able to experience STEWMUN from a completely different perspective as a leader rather than a delegate. I served as the Undersecretary General of Communications, wherein, among many other tasks, I had the chance to create the STEWMUN 2020 website. Being fully immersed in the planning side of the conference gave me an even greater appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into crafting a worthwhile experience for the attendees, and I came away from the experience with an unbridled enthusiasm to begin preparations for next year’s conference.
That was in February 2020. Little did we know then that that conference would be one of our last times on campus for the rest of the school year.
This year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and ever-changing CDC guidelines, we were initially uncertain as to whether or not we would be able to have a STEWMUN 2021 conference at all, much less one in person. Nevertheless, we knew that we wanted to try, so we began tentative preparations for an in-person conference in the spring, hoping for the best, yet knowing that at any moment we might have to resort to our back-up plan of conducting the conference entirely online. Although, in a chaotic year like this one, we knew that even hosting a virtual conference would be a monumental success, after attending numerous virtual conferences conducted by various universities throughout the school year, we knew that, if at all possible, we really wanted to be able to give our Steward community a more authentic Model UN experience through an in-person conference bustling with the thrill of live debate. Additionally, more so than just wanting to re-create a more authentic experience, we also wanted to give our newer club members the possibility to learn the ropes of Model UN and parliamentary procedure in an environment that more closely resembled the work that they would be doing in future conferences so that they could be better prepared moving forward.
Much to our delight, by the time February rolled around, the Model UN leadership team was finally able to get the all-clear from administration to conduct a socially-distanced, fully-masked, in-person conference. Needless to say, we were absolutely thrilled!
After all of our careful preparations, by the time the early Saturday morning of April 10th rolled around, the anticipation in the air was palpable. Everyone was positively beaming, delegates and conference leaders alike, and we were all so excited for the day ahead of us to unfold.
The conference began with opening remarks from Mr. Scott Maddrea, who is easily one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Not only does he have over 30 years of service with the Virginia General Assembly under his belt, but he is also a 25 year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve (retiring in 2012 with the rank of Lt. Colonel) and a frequent guest lecturer at universities such as CNU and JMU, in addition to serving as a Steward substitute teacher. I first met Mr. Maddrea when he substituted for our AP Government class for two weeks earlier this spring, and, after hearing some brief snippets of his political stories in class, I knew that he would be the perfect candidate to inspire our delegates before the STEWMUN conference began. And inspire he did. Whether the delegates were able to be in the room with Mr. Maddrea or were merely listening in from Zoom in another classroom, all were captivated by his brilliant anecdotal advice about collaboration and leadership.
Then the conference began. Strolling through the silent hallways, my eavesdropping ears perked up whenever I was able to hear the muffled sounds of international debate behind closed classroom doors. Cheekily, I would peer through the windows to catch a glimpse of the action, a childlike grin animating my face. Being able to watch Model UN committees interact in person again was so incredibly fulfilling, and it appeared (at least from the windows!) as though the delegates were really enjoying themselves, which made my heart oh so happy.
Just to confirm that things really were proceeding as smoothly as they appeared to be, during lunchtime I began approaching some of the delegates and asking them if they had any feedback about how committee was going. This is a customary procedure for Model UN conferences in order to ensure that the remainder of the conference is even better than the beginning. However, much to my surprise, every group that I asked replied that everything was going perfectly. Even when I prompted again, just to ensure that they weren’t merely saying these incredibly kind things solely to spare my feelings, they affirmed their previous statements, claiming that they were having so much fun and were just so happy to be there. At that moment, I was overwhelmed with joy. I was so very proud that all of the hard work that our Model UN leadership team had poured into this conference was paying off in such a rewarding way.
As our committee sessions came to an end, during closing ceremonies, I had the opportunity to give thanks to all of the phenomenal people who had made the conference possible. I thanked, first and foremost, our amazing club sponsors, Ms. Dwelle and Ms. McGehee, without whom this event would truly not have been possible. I then thanked our outstanding leadership team, including Anya Bhargava, Drew Thompson, Nancy Huang, and Kennedy Crook, before moving on to our wonderful chairs, Mr. Maddrea, and each and every teacher who volunteered to chaperone the event. Last, but certainly not least, I made a point to thank all of the delegates for simply deciding to spend their Saturday with us, learning a little bit more about Model UN. Their vibrant positivity made this event so stellar, and I was so glad they had had a good time.
After I had the opportunity to thank everyone, a really special moment happened which truly touched my heart. Ms. Dwelle ended up taking the mic for a few moments to thank me for my contributions to the conference, and then, all of a sudden, I looked around and noticed that all of the delegates in the room were giving me a standing ovation. If I’m being honest, at that moment I felt so overwhelmed with happiness that I started to feel my eyes welling up with tears. There is no greater sense of satisfaction than to know that all of your persistence and hard work culminated in the creation of an enjoyable experience for those in your community. Against all odds, the conference-that-almost-wasn’t had been a smashing success.
It was the perfect, cherry-on-top ending to not only a wonderful Saturday, but also to my entire high school Model UN experience. I am so very grateful that I was able to serve as Model UN Club President this year, and I am eager to hear about how STEWMUN 2022 goes next year.
April 24th, 2018 / Libey Eynan
What makes you think of robots? Metalwork, coding, zip ties, legos? When I think of robotics, I think of the great times I’ve had with my wonderful teammates. From almost making it to states (twice) to making blue and gold zip tie hats to attempting to learn some code, I have truly had some amazing times with my lovely teammates. This year, we had an awesome season. We received the Judge’s award, which means our team stood out during team judging. You could also say we received an award for being awesome. We placed second at our last competition of the season, but unfortunately we did not make it to states. There is always next year and new possibilities. As of last year, we pick a yearly theme and design spirit wear around it. Last year, our theme was Harry Potter, and this year our theme was zipties. We had zip tie name tags and zip tie hats for the competition. We even had a team bonding night, and we ziptied the entire team together. I don’t recommend doing that again, but it really did help with our team dynamic.
This years FTC challenge was called Relic Recovery. The main way to earn points was to stack brown and gray blocks in designated patterns. Other ways to score points included knocking off the opposite colored wiffle ball or jewel in autonomous mode and balancing on the balancing stone during the last 30 seconds of the game. It's harder than it seems and it takes focus and practice.
At the beginning of each school year, the team divides up into three sub-teams. The sub-teams are build team, coding team, and design team. Each group has either a captain or a set of co-captains. The build team work really hard to design the robot, and later builds it. Building the robot is a vital part to our success. Coding team codes the robot. They put life and love into it. This year the team decided to take on a new challenge: mecanum wheels. Mecanum wheels are difficult to assemble and the coding is even more complicated, but they have serious advantages to them. They can strafe, which is great advantage with time constraints in the competition. The design deals with many things including spirit wear, t-shirt design, the design of the robot, fundraising, and documenting the process of everything.
To wrap up, we had an amazing season this year. I would like to thank all of the great Spartabots for making it an enjoyable experience. We worked hard, played hard and did their our very best. I would like to give a huge thank you to Mr. Gallo for guiding us throughout the year. We could have not done it without him. He is our mentor and our guide. His support and endless hours of patience is one of a kind.
We will continue to do our best next year and we could always use more dedicated Spartabots on our team. Come and join us if you are into coding, zip ties, innovation, or even if you love being part of a team.