College students mentor local MUN club

Mentored by Audrey Lee ’20 and Darla Torres ’18, Mount Greylock’s MUN team debated at a conference in Boston. Photo courtesy of Audrey Lee.

Last weekend, students from Mount Greylock Regional School, mentored by Audrey Lee ’20 and Darla Torres ’18, competed in a Model United Nations (MUN) conference at Boston College High School. Four students received awards for their stellar individual performances.

The successes enjoyed by the high school and middle school students owe a lot to the work of Torres and Lee, who both participated in MUN in high school. Lee founded the current version of the Mount Greylock MUN team, a decision that was primarily motivated by the lack of similar extracurricular activities at the College. “Coming here, it made me really sad that we didn’t have a team because I wanted to stay involved,” Lee said. “Deciding to continue my involvement by teaching this great group of kids has been super rewarding.”

According to Torres, the program would not have been possible without the involvement of the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA). “I would encourage students to pursue their interests through CLiA,” Torres said. “They were the most supportive, were extremely receptive to our interests and, ultimately, are the reason that this thing got off the ground in the first place.”

The transition from competing to teaching has been challenging for Lee and Torres, but it is one that they have embraced wholeheartedly. “It’s definitely different being on this side of things,” Torres said. “As a high schooler, being in MUN was fun, but it’s also fun to teach and relive that high school life, which is something we get to do when we take the team to conference.”

Their students expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for Torres’ and Lee’s mentorship. “[Lee and Torres] have done a really incredible job of both being kind and supportive to us students, while also doing a really effective job at teaching us how to navigate [MUN],” Avery Powers, a junior at Mount Greylock, said.

Mount Greylock first-year Victoria Melkonyan agreed. “Audrey and Darla find a way to perfectly balance out everything, such that you get enough practical advice but also a lot of advice on the different subtleties that come with [MUN],” Melkonyan said. The positive response to the club is reflected in its increase in membership.

Lee and Torres believe that they have a leg up on the competition because they are college-aged mentors, as opposed to the high school teachers who normally advise MUN clubs. “I think in working with such young people, being young yourself makes it easier to try new strategies out,” Torres said.

The mentees also believe that their advisors’ ages have played a significant role in the team’s success. “The fact that they are that much closer in age really helps with their connection to us,” Powers said. “There are only a few years separating us, not a whole generation, which is the case at other schools. And I think it allows them to understand us more, which in turn allows them to do a better job of teaching us.”

Melkonyan concurred, saying that she has found comfort in her advisors’ approachability. “We can talk about the [MUN] process, but we can also talk about the drama at Mount Greylock this week,” she said. “And it helps because if you can be friends with your advisors, you’ll be more comfortable texting them at midnight the day before a conference with any questions.”

Despite the closeness in age, however, Lee and Torres have ensured that they maintain a balance between friend and teacher. “Initially, I was a little worried that the line between mentor and friend would be blurred, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of making sure that everyone respects one another,” Lee said.

Torres will be graduating this spring, a fact that her mentees are very aware of. They plan on attending her graduation, a small detail that is indicative of the kind of close-knit community that Lee and Torres have worked to foster with the team. Looking ahead, they hope to continue their strong performances, and they encourage other College students to get involved with MUN here in Williamstown.

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