Each spring, a delegation of Hewitt’s middle and upper school students participate in the Packer Model Congress, where they engage in heated but civil debates about taxes, foreign aid, veterans’ affairs, and environmental policy. With a variety of proposed bills and a semester of learning about congressional and parliamentary procedure at their disposal, these delegates view the annual event, which has welcomed middle school students from across the tri-state area for nearly 30 years, as yet another opportunity to make their ideas known and their voices heard.
For seventh and eighth graders, Hewitt’s Model Congress elective is a chance to learn how laws are proposed, revised, and passed in the US Congress. Students examine pressing current news and public issues, compose a standard one-page law, and then work together to refine and retool their proposed legislation. It is not all carefully composed speeches, as preparation for the Packer Model Congress also includes debates, motions to caucus, and side conferences where students learn how to network and compromise with their fellow delegates.
While many classes are devoted to revamping and rewriting bills, Model Congress also gives students an opportunity to build public speaking and presentation skills, as delegates prepare by composing and practicing persuasive speeches. After submitting their bills, students review their assigned committee and begin to assemble their congressional packet, which includes their bill, speeches in favor of or in opposition to the bills of fellow delegates, talking points, and sometimes even graphics or other speaking props to enhance their presentations.
After several months spent preparing for the big day, Hewitt’s middle schoolers head to Brooklyn Heights to join over 300 of their peers at the Packer Model Congress. Hewitt upper schoolers, many of whom took part in Model Congress during seventh and eighth grade, are among the Parliamentarians, or committee chairs, who run the day at Packer. In fact, the enormous number of committees and full Senate sessions that make up the big day in May are run almost entirely by upper school students from participating independent schools.
Given the incredible amount of effort and skill they bring to their work, it is no surprise that Hewitt students routinely return from Packer with Golden Gavels, Honorable Mentions, and the Barbara Moore Award for Leadership. Their success at each year’s Model Congress is a testament to their growing awareness of the nation and world around them and their ability to interact civilly, connect to their peers, and understand that a diverse set of viewpoints is what makes a culture and society strong.