Twenty-four students from Chatham High School’s Model Congress club attended the Princeton Model Congress conference run by Princeton University from Nov. 17-20 at the Grand Hyatt Washington D.C., along with approximately 1,000 students from across the country.
CHS sophomore Bridget McGarry introduced a bill titled “The Clean Vehicle Rewards Act” and sought to encourage the usage of clean vehicles by allowing owners to drive in HOV lanes as well as getting a sales tax deduction. Not only did it make it through committee and passed in the full Senate, but it was even signed by the president and upheld in the Supreme Court – a first for a Chatham High School student! Bridget commented after the weekend that her favorite part of the weekend was spending time in her committee, “because I got to discuss an issue that I really cared about in a small setting.”
The Model Congress Conference is an ideal place for students to engage in political discourse regarding topics that interest them and are relevant to the nation today. The majority of students who attended the conference were part of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Students were assigned in advance to one of the two houses and then also assigned to a committee within that house. They each did significant research and then drafted a bill relevant to their committee that they hoped would improve the United States in some way.
To prepare for the conference students met weekly to present their bills and critique each other’s. They also learned Parliamentary Procedure in advance of the conference. Throughout the four day conference students sat in two to three hour committee sessions, listened to their peers present bills and then fought to amend, pass or defeat these bills. Each CHS student also presented their bill to their committee. Approximately twenty of the bills that Chatham students proposed passed in some capacity. Some were passed unanimously, some with amendments and some failed in committee but were so interesting that Princeton then took them and passed them on to full Senate or House debates.
On Saturday, the students got time to tour Washington, D.C. including the National Archives and the Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials.