Two teenagers from Cincinnati’s Jewish community won awards at this year’s Model UN conference in Montreal.

Wyoming High School students Alex Kopnick and Zak Lampert both earned special recognition while participating in the conference as committee delegates from their school’s Model UN club.

The annual Model UN is an educational conference that simulates official sessions of the United Nations. Participation in the conference introduces students—who are known as “delegates” at the event—to the challenges of diplomacy, negotiation, and decision making on an international scale. Students participating in the Model UN join different committees that focus on specific issues.

As a participant in the Salem 1692 committee, which addressed the 17th century witch trials as a current event, Wyoming senior Alex Kopnick was assigned the fictitious role of Lord Hamilton, a Scottish nobleman on the committee addressing the crisis.

“To prepare for this committee I had to do extensive research on why the Salem witch trials happened, the events surrounding them, and what caused them to end,” he told the American Israelite. “I also had to do research on Scottish noblemen to get an idea of what Lord Hamilton’s positions would be, as well as what the scope of his powers would be.”   

Alex won the Lester B. Pearson Award for Peacemaking, which the conference presents to a delegate who evinces leadership and civility. 

“Finding creative solutions is a vital part of solving problems, and working together is much more effective than going it alone,” Alex said when reflecting on what he learned in Montreal.

Wyoming student Zak Lampert participated in the conference as a delegate in the UN General Assembly Special Session on Indigenous Affairs, Malaysia. He won the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Award for Diplomacy in recognition of innovative and creative policy making, as well as eloquence and persuasive ability.   

Model UN encourages the development of skills that will be useful throughout the students’ lives, including research techniques, writing, public speaking, problem solving, and conflict resolution.

“The best way to describe an experience such as Salem 1692, or any other committee like it (known as crisis committees), is that it does feel like a crisis,” said Alex. “The committee shifts very rapidly, and while everyone is debating and working together to solve whatever is thrown at us through committee directives that we vote on, each person is also advancing their own personal agenda.”

While the conference demands an intense level of preparation and engagement, there’s also excitement. 

“From a battle to save kidnapped colonists, to accusing other students in committee of being witches, there was never a dull moment,” said Alex. “I even assassinated my father to become the Duke of Hamilton.” 

He was referring, of course, to his fictional Model UN father, not his real father, who is the rabbi at Valley Temple.

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