Gill St. Bernard’s Students Take on Model Congress

Gill St. Bernard’s participated at the first in-person Rutgers Model Congress Conference (RMC 2022) in over two years, held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown New Brunswick, NJ.

Over four jam-packed days from Thursday, April 7 to Sunday, April 10, six GSB Upper Schoolers assumed the roles of Senators and Congresspersons from South Carolina to argue for their state’s cause over a wide spread of topics.

“We chose to represent South Carolina because its politics and concerns are so different from New Jersey’s,” said Faculty Co-Advisor Carrie Grabowski, who along with club Co-Advisor Candace Pryor Brown helped prepare the students for the weekend.

“Each student was assigned to a party, Democrat or Republican, and then assigned to a specific committee. To prepare for their role, the students had to perform extensive research on what their party’s positions were on the topics being debated by that committee for that state.”

“You had to stand up in front of thirty-plus people you barely knew to argue for a topic you just learned a month ago,” explained Sanjay DeSilva ’25, who sat on the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. “It was an amazing experience and definitely built my confidence.”

Sophomore Daniel Castro, who represented the well-known U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham, agreed. “The best part was when you would say something and people in the committee would nod their heads. Later, they’d pass you notes saying they agreed with your position and would support you. In those moments, you really felt like you knew what you were doing.”

Model Congress is similar to Model UN in that students participate in a simulation of governmental proceedings and discuss real political and social issues. However, unlike Model UN, Model Congress focuses specifically on the government and issues of the United States instead of the international community and students represent states as opposed to countries.

“We had a lot more power at Model Congress than at Model UN,” Sami Feteiha ’24 said. “In Model UN, you make recommendations, but in Model Congress, you make policy. It was also a lot more dynamic because everyone was so polarized.”

RMC 2022 included guidance on policymaking and urged the delegates to focus not only on the content of the bill but also on properly executing the solution. They reminded delegates that policymaking doesn’t end with a bill’s passage and that issues are only solved when well-thought-out solutions are coupled with practical execution.

“At Model Congress, you get to live the subjects that you learn in AP U.S. History or AP U.S. Government and Politics instead of just discussing them in a classroom,” explained Mrs. Grabowski. “It becomes very personal.”

Nothing was more personal than the select historical committee Jennifer Salemy ’22 served on. Different than the traditional Model Congress committees, which tackled current issues and their hypothetical outcomes, the 1975 Church Committee looked backwards in time. Structured to mimic the actual 1975 Church Committee, formed to study governmental operations with respect to intelligence activities, Jennifer debated real events in history and considered real-time solutions to the crises they spurned.

“I attended Model UN in person my freshman year, but the last two years were remote,” Jennifer said. “The best part this year was that you got to interact with so many people you wouldn’t get to meet otherwise. I really enjoyed talking to other delegates before the committee started, and I loved how active the committees were. We’d be focused on achieving one goal, and then before we were done, we’d have to shift to address another crisis.”

Jennifer’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the committee resulted in her being named her committee's best delegate. Please join us in congratulating Jennifer and all our GSB students who participated in this year’s event. We can’t wait to see which states and policies you tackle next year!

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