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SMES Seniors Govern at Harvard Model Congress San Francisco

10 February 2012 admin 2,489 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Eleven St. Margaret’s seniors attended Harvard Model Congress in San Francisco last month. The simulation was an opportunity for students to learn firsthand about the workings of the United States Congress, the National Security Council, the Cabinet, Press Corps and the Supreme Court. At the conference, students participated in a number of committees that simulated various components of the American government. Whether they served as congressmen, Supreme Court justices, or journalists, participants benefited from the interactive learning experience that Harvard Model Congress provides. Students had the opportunity to discuss current national issues and craft legislation with delegates from across the country. Below, seniors Caroline Walters and Ryan Gooding summarize their experiences.

By Caroline Walters

More than 240 students from 12 high schools from around the world gathered in San Francisco, Calif. January 13-16 for Harvard Model Congress. At Harvard Model Congress, high school students learn the ins and outs of American government the best way possible, through simulation and debate. The delegates ranged from local San Francisco high school students to high school students all the way from Amman, Jordan.

This diverse group of students served as presidential cabinet members, senators, representatives, National Security Council members, National Economic Council members, Supreme Court justices and members of The Press, dealing with contemporary issues and challenges members of the government face today. Students took on the roles of current members of the government, forcing them to learn about a new perspective of politics that is not necessarily their own.

This four-day conference covered an entire year of American politics, enabling the students to experience the entire spectrum of how the government works. The Senate and Congress worked closely together to pass bills, and debated numerous pieces of current legislation such as the controversial “Dream Act” and President Obama’s healthcare plan. Special programs committees like the National Security Council and the presidential cabinet dealt with crises throughout the weekend, including the middle of the night, where they dealt with real-life issues like nuclear power threats and terrorist attacks.

An exciting element to this year’s HMC was “The Race to the White House” where Harvard students became the current GOP presidential candidates, President Obama and Hillary Clinton. After a series of lively speeches and dynamic debates, the delegates thoughtfully voted in their roles, the GOP nominee and then the president. Beyond the endless learning that took place this weekend, friendships were created among the future leaders of the United States government and the world.

A total of 11 St. Margaret’s seniors attended this year’s HMCSF. More than half of the students received Best Delegate and Commendation Awards for their performance. When not working hard in committee, Upper School History Teacher and Model Congress Advisor Rocky Parker took the students around San Francisco to experience the many flavors the city has to offer.

By Ryan Gooding

Long before the sun rose on Friday, January 13, a group of 11 St. Margaret’s students convened at John Wayne Airport to embark on a weekend trip to San Francisco. For three days, we participated in the Harvard Model Congress—one of the nation’s premier governmental simulations for high school students.

“You are all America’s future leaders,” remarked Alison DiCiurcio, president of Harvard Model Congress, while addressing the more than 240 student delegates later Friday morning. “Over the next three days, you will be given the chance to act as legislators, advisors, justices and journalists, working to solve problems faced by our nation today.”

That we did.

Once the simulation started, we ceased being just St. Margaret’s students, and immersed ourselves completely in our roles. Together, the group of 11 students became senators, congressmen, Supreme Court justices, members of the National Security Council and National Economic Council and journalists for the press corps. For three days, we debated and passed legislation, averted national crises, proposed solutions to economic issues, and published nearly 20 articles and dozens of photographs.

Simply put, St. Margaret’s students performed above and beyond expectations. In the National Economic Council, for example, senior Mark Oliver proposed an effective plan to reform homeless benefits. In addition, St. Margaret’s students in the House and Senate co-authored and passed three successful bills. By the end of the simulation, St. Margaret’s students earned multiple honorable mentions and four Gavel Awards (given to the best delegates in each sub-committee).

Looking back on the experience, nearly all of the 11 students who participated gave the simulation a solid thumbs up:

“It was a really great experience that taught me a lot about taking the material we’ve learned in Advanced Placement government and putting it into action,” said senior Najet Fazai. During her time at Harvard Model Congress, she served on the Supreme Court – acting as both a justice and a trial lawyer, and earning a Gavel Award (with teammate Samantha Larsen) for Best Supreme Court team. “It really helps our studies to become a lot more relevant now that we understand what politicians go through every day in Washington,” she continued.

As for me, I served as a photojournalist for the HMCSF Press Corps. In three days, I published nine full-length articles and dozens of photographs to accompany them. Attending Harvard Model Congress was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my senior year thus far. Not only was I able to apply what I’ve learned in AP government in a political situation, but I also learned more about what it takes to be a good journalist.

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