A crowd of 24 high school students swamp the narrow streets of New Haven, Connecticut. Clad in western business attire, heels, blazers, and clasping bill books to their chests, the delegates march to their respective committees in the freezing cold weather. North’s Model Congress team competed at the Yale Model Congress (YMC) conference from December 4 to 7 and won Best Large Delegation, meaning the school had the highest ratio of awards to delegates.
YMC is usually considered a more advanced conference for North’s team since more competitive schools attend, but this time around, the officer board decided to take nine new delegates. “Yale has, in my opinion, the best and highest level debate of any conference, and that’s actually a great environment for new delegates to be introduced to,” senior president Anna Mehrabyan said.
In addition to the new experience of Congress-style debate, all the delegates participate in a mock election. Club vice president Shreya Sunderram, a senior, ran for president at this conference and won the election. “It’s such an honor to be president of a conference that has literally raised me and developed me into the thinker I am today,” Sunderram said.
North students prepared arguments to bring to their committees if asked about their candidate’s policies. As for the campaigning, students prepared several different methods to appeal to the voters. “Given the tragedy that is my artistic abilities, I haven’t been overly involved with creating posters as many others have been,” sophomore Ryan Zhang said the day before the conference. “But I’ll be assisting with onsite campaigning by passing out flyers to other students voting at the conference.”
“The biggest thing is policy. We are making sure that I’m running on a strong platform and that it is evident in my speech,” Sunderram added. However, unique from other conferences, the position of president is merely a title awarded to the winner of the election—at other conferences, for example, the elected president then participates in a committee called the presidential cabinet, in which he or she and other delegates representing the executive branch debate national issues in real time. At YMC, the elected president is placed into a standard Senate or House committee to debate with other delegates.
To prepare for the conference, the officers modified their training sessions to cover as many national issues as possible. “We’ve been focusing our training on ensuring everyone is prepared,” Mehrabyan said. “And, of course, keeping up with current events and the necessary policy-level discussions that arise as a result.” Sunderram said that training sessions boil down to “two things—awareness and passion,” and through exposure to many different problems Congress must solve, students become motivated to look into Supreme Court cases and conduct research on their own.
“Ultimately our training is initiating the passion and drive,” Sunderram said.