Students Attend Harvard Model Congress
Haley Macray, Veritas Senior Managing Editor
Harvard Model Congress is still a relatively new club at Rockland High School but it has already developed a great deal of interest among students.
This year, RHS’s Harvard Model Congress advisors, Richard MacAllister and Amanda Lanigan, took 18 students to a three night, four day conference at the Boston Sheraton Hotel during February Break (Thursday, Feb. 18 to Sunday, Feb. 21).
Harvard Model Congress, the “largest government simulation conference in the world,” according to its website, gives students the opportunity to see firsthand how government works.
While at the conference Harvard Model Congress members participate in various debates and committee work for which they have previously prepared.
“The three night, four day conference is more than just deliberating laws and learning about the American legislative process,” says club advisor, Mr. MacAllister, “It’s also about meeting new people from around the country, standing up for something you truly believe in, and learning how to make [crucial] decisions, under pressure, using a wide array of resources.”
Students from RHS attended the Boston branch of the conference. Other Harvard Model Congresses take place in San Francisco, Rome, Seoul, Dubai, and São Paulo.
“My favorite part of the conference probably was being able to cooperate and debate with kids from all over the world with different backgrounds from myself over popular controversial topics and issues,” says RHS senior and two year HMC member, Matt Kirslis.
Prior to attending the event in Boston, students prepared in weekly meetings with each other and their advisors.
“We have weekly meetings throughout the year to help prepare students for the conference,” says RHS senior and RHS HMC President, Zach Pransky.
“We go over parliamentary procedure which is the organized way of speaking, and we draft sample bills and work on our debating. I have found that students from RHS go into the conference fairly educated on what is going on, but it is all about reading your committee’s briefings and preparing for your particular role.”
After practicing and fundraising during the summer and throughout the school year, students were fully ready for the conference.
“One way I would describe the conference is being very large. With safely over a thousand attendees you can see that there is never a moment of rest over the course of the three days,” says Kirslis. “It combines education and a good time in one package. You will really experience the life of a congressman [or] woman down to the three hour long debates and even the stalemates of voting on a certain amendment.”
Not only do students have a great time at the conference with their classmates, they are also able to learn valuable life lessons while learning more about themselves.
“The conference was extremely fun and amazing,” says RHS junior and two year HMC member, Leo Field. “I have gotten much better at public speaking since [attending].”
From a senior’s point of view, some students have been able to clarify what they hope to achieve in their future.
“I have taken away my love of politics from HMC. I went in to it as a junior and now, as a senior, am preparing to continue my education as a political science major,” says Pransky. “It has given me a great view of the political system and how things work.”
Sara Bistany, also an RHS senior and two year HMC member agrees with Pransky.
“I am really into politics, so it was a great opportunity to learn about our government and discuss issues that are happening now,” says Bistany. “I have left the conference with a better understanding of government and I’ve learned how to get my points across effectively in a debate.”
Kirslis has also taken away some valuable points from the conference.
“I have definitely learned how our inner most government runs and how dysfunctional it actually can be, despite it having to run a country. Learning how to argue your side of the argument for the sake of others, even though it might not be the easiest solution or most popular one, is also a skill one takes away from this conference,” says Kirslis. “Along with those [skills] a general taste for public speaking will develop, and aid those who struggle with it.”
In only two years HMC has created quite the following at RHS. For students interested in joining, Mr. MacAllister encourages them to become a part of RHS’s HMC,
“Students are absolutely encouraged to join. We are hoping to make the club year-round, not just preparation for the conference. We are always searching for students who will be committed to the club, and encourage anyone to sit with me or Ms. Lanigan to learn more about it.”