Swampscott High Students Get Political at Harvard Congress
The high school sent 27 students to the national event held last weekend at the Boston Sheraton.
Swampscott High Senior Bridget Genoversa-Wong read lots — including political philosopher John Locke and the Federalist Papers — to prepare for Harvard Model Congress Boston.
SHS Junior Coleman Pinkerton wrote lots — three position papers — to prepare for the government simulation program run by Harvard students.
In the end, Bridget, Coleman and Sam Crimmins's preparation helped them come away with awards and rich experiences at the highly competitive event held last week from Thursday through Sunday at the Boston Sheraton.
Twenty-seven Swampscott High students were among the more than 1,400 students at the congress, said James Morrison, social studies content leader and faculty advisor for the Political Action Club at Swampscott High.
Days of political wrangling and public speaking in the simulated House and Senate committees attracted students from public and private schools around the country.
Bridget and Coleman — interviewed in their school cafeteria Tuesday — went into the model congress knowing there would be other well prepared students there. Some students from other schools had prepared by taking a class based entirely on the model congress.
Bridget, who, for real, worked on Elizabeth Warren's US Senate campaign last year, and is interested in a career in politics, said the key to not being intimidated at the Harvard event was preparation.
This is what she told the Swampscott freshmen: Do not be intimidated or try to do too much.
"Pick your battles," she said.
Bridget played the role of Rufus King, a a Massachusetts representative at the 1776 Constitutional Convention.
On the table was an end to the slave trade. They hammered out an agreement to end the trade in 20 years.
Coleman, who is interested in science and biology, played a lobbyist with the Cato Institute.
This was his first time at the Harvard event. He worked on controversial bills tied to offshore drilling and fracking, the high-pressure drilling used to extract natural gas and petroleum from shale.
He also had to speak to large groups of people. Sometimes 50 to 60 in a committee meeting. And he hadn't done much public speaking before the model congress.
He overcame public speaking worries by not thinking about it or relying heavily on notes.
He knew he was prepared and found the experience exhilirating, at times, especially when winning an argument in committee.
This was the Harvard Model Congress's 28th year.
The high school students engaged in debates, caucuses, trials, press conferences, and testimonies.
A goal of the program was to help students better appreciate what goes into the political process.
Bridget said she was sad to know this would be her last Harvard Model Congress.
She has now participated in the program all four years of high school.
They were times she will remember.
They got to spend three nights at a Boston hotel, attend a dance and meet students from all over the country.
And they got a taste of what life will be like in college and the working world, especially if that work takes them into the political arena.