A group of 17 juniors and seniors traveled to Boston, Mass. to participate in Harvard Model Congress. The conference took place from Feb. 19 to 23 and the group was accompanied by social studies teachers Mrs. Jillian Roger and Mrs. Katy Salzman.
Harvard Model Congress is a non-profit organization organized and staffed entirely by undergraduate students at Harvard. “I wanted to go to Harvard Model Congress because I’m interested in how the government works,” senior Shruthi Kumar said. “I felt putting myself in the role of a senator would give me more insight into why politics is so slow,” Kumar said.
“It was a really good opportunity to learn about different things that I don’t have much experience with or haven’t had the opportunity to learn about,” junior Amanda Hingorani said. She was representing Senator Thomas Carper from Delaware in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.
“To be honest, I didn’t participate that much, but I learned so much valuable information. I learned a lot of interpersonal skills. It really enriched my ability to work with others and ability to work under pressure,” Hingorani said.
More than 1,400 students from across the country participated in the government simulation and each one was given a specific role. Like Kumar, many were given senators or congressmen and women to represent. There were also special programs including the UN Security Council, World Health Organization, Supreme Court and West Wing.
“I was representing a senator from Illinois named Tammy Duckworth in the Senate Armed Services committee, which does a lot of military work,” Kumar said. Throughout the course of the conference, committees met to discuss specific briefing topics. The students were given the topics months ahead of time, in order to research the subject. “Some of the topics I had were Militarization of the Arctic, Human and Drug Trafficking and Mental Health for U.S. Special Forces,” Kumar said.
Each committee tried to write and pass bills. After a bill had passed, it would move to the full session of the Senate or House. “It was a lot of debating bills and proposing solutions to the world’s problems,” Kumar said.
“I gained a lot of leadership skills and the ability to see both perspectives. I was representing a Democrat, but there were Republicans in the room who had to stand up for their beliefs,” Kumar said.
This experience was especially beneficial for Kumar. “In my career, I definitely see myself doing public policy of some sort because I do believe that legislation can change lives and impact the world. I think being a part of that process is important to making a difference,” Kumar said.
Kumar was awarded “Best Delegate” by her committee. She was given an engraved gavel from her committee chairs. “You can look at it two ways. You can either not participate, not care about it because you know nothing is going to change, or can you can pretend that it would make a difference and actually get involved,” Kumar said.
Three Marian girls took home honorable mentions including junior Callie Cavanaugh in the Republican National Committee, senior Chrissy Gulseth for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and senior Aker Ajak for the UN Security Council.
In addition to the conference activities, the girls took a walking tour of historic Boston, visited Faneuil Hall and ate the famous cannolis from Mike’s Pastry. They also took excursions to Salem, Mass. to see the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and to Cambridge, Mass. to visit the Harvard campus and sit in on a class.
“I would totally do it again. I am absolutely planning on going next year,” Hingorani said.