PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 2020
CONTACT: 
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant
jcrusco@holyangels.org

AHA’s Model UN Group Earns Honors at Harvard

Demarest, NJ: In a year when competition at the Harvard Model UN was at its most intense, the members of the Academy of the Holy Angels Model UN team showed their strength, and brought home two well-deserved awards. Katherine Gazzini of Ridgewood earned Honorable Mention in her committee, and Shannon Dobres of Bergenfield won the Diplomatic Commendation Award. Both students are Holy Angels seniors who were making their final trip to the Boston-based event.

“This is huge! This was their largest conference ever, with 4,000 students from around the globe, so it was super competitive,” said AHA Model UN Moderator Jennifer Cucchisi. Commenting on Gazzini’s growth, Cucchisi added, “She started with me as a freshman at this conference and worked her way up to co-president. Now she has won an award at the largest conference Harvard has ever had.

"Shannon joined Model UN during her sophomore year and has attended Harvard with us ever since. I am so proud of both Katie and Shannon for their well-deserved awards this year, and all of our delegates for their hard work and dedication. This conference involves a lot of planning ahead of time and that is in addition to all of the work that they are doing for their classes."

Just after she returned from Boston, Gazzini said, “This year has definitely been my best experience with Harvard’s Model UN conference, even though I have loved my experiences at HMUN all four years I attended the conference. At the 2020 event, I represented the Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, in the General Assembly’s Special Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, debating early education in developing nations.”

While working on ideas to provide children with access to education, Gazzini formed friendships with HMUN delegates from Venezuela, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Tunisia.

“In addition to meeting an incredibly diverse group of delegates, I believe that I was able to contribute more to committee this year than I had for the past years by taking charge of my bloc (a group of student delegates from different nations) as well as giving speeches as often as possible. I wrote a considerable portion of my bloc’s draft resolution and was able to apply my research on gender-related educational barriers and curriculum development for primary education in developing countries.

“Through this conference, I learned the nuances of why education at the primary level can be so difficult to obtain in developing countries and all of the obstacles that children in these areas face.”

Dobres, who is a three-time HMUN participant, said she has learned something new each year.

“This year, I learned how to become more active within my bloc,” Dobres noted. “The topic for my committee addressed the refugee crisis and solutions to improve the overall situation of refugees in refugee camps.” As a delegate of Eswatini, she worked with other nations, including Russia, Morocco, and France, to improve the outlook for refugees in developing countries.

“It was an amazing experience to work with these delegates and learn about the different circumstances each country faces regarding refugees,” Dobres said. “Additionally, many of the delegates I worked with were from other countries, and I enjoyed learning about the differences among our cultures. During committee meetings, I worked to gain support for our bloc’s solution in my interactions with other delegates. I also drafted many resolutions within our final solution and presented it in front of the entire committee.”

Dobres said she is genuinely grateful the experiences she has had as a delegate.

Dobres and Gazzini collaborated with AHA teammates Angelina Busetto of Pomona, New York; Patricia “Patsy” Coleman of New City, New York; Amanda Donohue of Hoboken; Marie Howard of Ridgewood; Ria Jani of Haworth; Elizabeth Kim of Old Tappan; Grace Labruno of Nutley; Amrita Raval of Nanuet, New York; and Gabriella Rigoli of Wyckoff.

While the AHA Model UN group will be losing some seniors in a few months, including Gazzini and Dobres, the team’s future will belong to a new team of worthy competitors.

Sophomore Patsy Coleman described HMUN as one of the best experiences she has had as an AHA student. She recommends Model UN to those who love learning and are willing to work hard and take on new challenges.

“Working for four days with one of my closest friends, Amanda Donohue, in a high intensity legal committee with hundreds of students made me learn so much about Model UN,” Coleman said. “I learned how to comfortably speak with conviction in front of a huge group, and how to do this on the spot.”

Coleman particularly enjoyed forming friendships with delegates who hail from Jordan, Australia, Canada, and many other parts of the world. She also worked with participants from different parts of the United States, including Virginia and California.

Ria Jani said HMUN provided her with insight into the value of international cooperation.

“I was able to attend the conference last year as a freshman, and was thrilled to go again as a sophomore,” Jani noted. “I expanded my leadership and public speaking skills at the conference as I worked with students from all around the world. During the conference, I explored the issue of women's rights and the injustices they face in many countries, especially the country I represented, Eswatini, a country that struggles with an extreme HIV epidemic and domestic violence. We also discussed the threat of human trafficking, which has become a pressing issue. The conference helped to build communication and awareness about these global issues that are overlooked in our day-to-day lives.” She added, “Overall, Harvard MUN was an incredibly formative and unforgettable life experience.”

Cucchisi has been moderator of the AHA Model UN since 2015, and chaperoned this year’s HMUN trip with AHA Spanish language teacher Carmen Quiñones. While the HMUN draws thousands of students from around the world, Cucchisi explained that AHA is usually one of just three or four New Jersey schools in attendance. Nearly half of the delegates represent international schools.

Before they head to Boston, HMUN delegates spend many hours writing position papers that require in-depth research and evaluation. Participants also update their knowledge of relevant terminology, and participate in simulations. Some AHA delegates double-up on classwork to free up enough time to prepare and attend the multi-day conference.

The rewards are manifold. HMUN participants gain a greater understanding of global issues as they interact with their fellow delegates. Students work together, serving on committees that consider solutions to complex issues. Delegates hear various viewpoints on each issue, and draft related resolutions with the goal of having these documents approved.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.

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