DoDEA Pacific students experience at Harvard Model Congress Asia

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DoDEA Pacific high school students earned numerous accolades during the Harvard Model Congress Asia 2015 Far East event held in Hong Kong. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ronnie Holley)
DoDEA Pacific high school students earned numerous accolades during the Harvard Model Congress Asia 2015 Far East event held in Hong Kong. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ronnie Holley)

DoDEA Pacific students experience at Harvard Model Congress Asia

by: Lawrence Torres III, Department of Defense Education Activity - Pacific | .
DoDEA Pacific | .
published: January 23, 2015

HONG KONG — 63 DoDEA Pacific students from 13 high schools joined more than 520 of their peers from 15 foreign countries for the 11th session of Harvard Model Congress Asia held in Hong Kong Jan. 9-11.

HMC Asia is a rigorous government simulation event for international students organized by Harvard undergraduate students. DoDEA Pacific students attend HMC Asia as Far East delegates representing their schools’ Model United Nations programs. During HMC Asia, students assume roles of real-life congressional legislators, U.S. government leaders and members of major international organizations such as the European Union, World Health Organization, World Bank, etc. They are challenged to expand their own perspectives by exploring the deeper complexities of the issues at hand. The students are actively engaged throughout the conference in scenarios based on contemporary international disputes and must work together to forge solutions through diplomatic, judicial, legislative and journalistic exercises.

Facilitators from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government supported student-led domestic committees such as the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, U.S. Supreme Court, Presidential Cabinet, National Security Council, etc.

International committees included the G-15, World Trade Organizations, The European Union, World Health Organization, and International Criminal Court, among others. Students also assumed roles as professional journalists seeking to convey the important work of the committees, explore accountability and transparency issues, and report on outcomes.

Dr. Ronnie Holley from Osan American High School said the conference was well organized by the Harvard contingent.

“The event was a remarkable and measurable success,” added Dr. Holley, who has served as an HMC Asia sponsor in the US and DoDEA for many years. “The achievement made at the congress comes as a result of the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm from the students in the program and the numerous after-school hours of preparation, skills-development in meetings and weekend training sessions.”

At a remarkable 15-years-young, Osan American High School sophomore Young Woong Park was tasked with serving in the role of President of the United States, a first for a DoDEA Pacific student. Park’s duties at the Congress included approving or vetoing legislation drafted and approved by the mock House of Representatives and Senate.

“At HMC Asia, I got to participate in a crisis scenario in which my Cabinet members debated what actions to take for the best possible outcome of a situation which involved an outbreak of Ebola in southern California,” said Park, a returning participant of HMC Asia. “Seeking to prevent panic and chaos, we had to decide what to do quickly and what to do to prevent any further casualties.”

“This experience has helped me to better understand the role of the President in our nation’s government,” added Park. “I learned, through practical, first-hand experience, that making a decision might have a number of different outcomes and might affect certain groups of people in the United States differently. Working with my peers at the Congress inspired me to empathize with the difficulties and hardships that the President himself goes through.”

Other skill areas the delegates learned and applied during the HMC Asia conference included job creation, the fight against international crime, public speaking, negotiation, and critical thinking skills.

Selected delegates were recognized for their outstanding contributions to their respective committees. The following DoDEA Pacific students earned Awards of Excellence for their high performance at HMC Asia:

Kadena HS
Stephen Black, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Aanand Shah, Presidential Cabinet

Kubasaki HS
Nicholas Pagel, House Judiciary Committee
Dana Pirrotta, Supreme Court

Kinnick HS
Savannah Husmann, House Intelligence Committee
Samantha Boshoff, Senate Finance Committee

Osan American High School
Young Park, HMCA President
Claire Cooper, House Domestic Historical Committee
Samantha Ellingsworth, House Science, Space and Technology Committee

Humphreys High School
Nicole Castro, National Security Advisor
Hannah Cole, Delegate, Algeria

Guam High School
Zoe Curley, Energy and Commerce Committee
Will Soltero, Delegate, Presidential Cabinet

Seoul American High School
David Neavreth, U.S. Senate
Jack Barnes, National Security Advisor
Kyelee Fitts, Historical Committee

Yokota High School
Nic Tures, US House of Representatives

M.C. Perry High School
Daniel Montes De Oca, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee

“The skill development of writing, speaking, debating and critical thinking in a real-world scenario with both like-minded and opposing viewpoints together with the cultural experiences gained by student participants within the official sessions and in the field are truly priceless,” Dr. Holley added. “HMC Asia allows students to truly experience being part of something that is bigger and better than anything else they have ever experienced before, all at a level of expertise and with a set of expectations that justify being the best of the best.”

Ronald Coia, Kubasaki HS teacher, said the experience was both humbling and inspiring for some students as they engaged with some of the brightest minds of their generation and encountered, “true competition with international schools which helped them see, interact and befriend students from all over Asia.”

“I know that this event is a real-life activity directly from both AP Government [Advanced Placement] and AP Language,” Coia added. “The students see the inner workings of politics along with the power of persuasion unlike any other activity that I can do in the classroom.”

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