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The conference, which is in its second year at William & Mary, is the only one of its kind in the state of Virginia that is sponsored at an institution of higher education. This year, eight schools from as far as Tennessee and New Jersey will be attending the 120 member conference.
At a model congress conference, participants are put into the roles of senators and representatives and given the goal of adopting legislation that individuals care deeply about. Through debate and the use of parliamentary procedure, students are given a hands-on look at how legislation is passed through Congress.
According to the William & Mary Model Congress Web site, in this way, the conference hopes to yield “delegates that become better compromisers and public speakers while learning extensively about government in an exciting and intriguing way.”
“Model congress is a great way for students to learn about the American political system in a hands on manner,” said Kelsey Weissgold ‘12, one of the co-executive directors of this year’s conference. “Knowing how our government functions is a skill that every citizen should have. Students also become better critical thinkers, and improve their public speaking and research abilities.”
William & Mary Model Congress Club, founded in 2008 by two former high school model congress students, aims to teach the youth of America the benefits and values of civic education by engaging them in active debate though a simulation of Congress, according to its mission statement. Other institutions that have similar model congress conferences for high schools include Harvard University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University.