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Seniors simulate Congress in annual event

By Katie Ly

The Senate convened in the pit during Mock Congress. Photo courtesy of Chris Honeywell
The Senate convened in the pit during Mock Congress.
Photo courtesy of Chris Honeywell

The annual Mock Congress that all government classes participate in after semester-long preparation for the event arrived on Friday, Feb. 3, when seniors participated in a long day of debating and voting within a simulated Congress environment.

Mock Congress is an annual event targeted towards educating and giving seniors a live simulation of the process of drafting and passing legislation through Congress. While Advanced Placement (AP) government students represented the House of Representatives at the Old Gym and regular government students represented the Senate in the media center pit, every senior is required to write a bill.

Every bill is then introduced to various committees, which is where students from their government classes determine which bills will “survive” to reach the next stage(s): House Rules Committee and/or Senate Committee Action.

Students have the opportunity to get more involved in the process of Mock Congress by running for positions–Speaker of the House, Minority/Majority leaders, Minority/Majority whips, President of the Senate, Second-at-arms, and Sergeant-at-arms–to be a part of these “official” committees.

If elected, the students participate in the deciding process in which they choose the bills that make it to the floor for debate.

This year, there was a diverse number of topics in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Ranging from regulating internet pornography to legalizing polygamy to “killing” the Environmental Protection Agency to introducing primates into human society, seniors took on these topics by debating, asking questions, and voting in hopes that the bill in their favor would make  it to the President of the United States, Donald Trump (portrayed that day by English teacher Cynthia Roenisch).

Before Mock Congress began, the president delivered a speech to both the House of Representatives and Senate that made a lasting impact on teachers’ and students’ perspectives of the simulated activity/event. Also a part of the annual tradition, a staff member is chosen each year to portray the president.  Seniors do not know ahead of time who this person will be, making for a surprise entrance as the House and Senate come together for a joint session to begin the day.

President Trump as portrayed by English teacher Cynthia Roenisch addressed the seniors during Mock Congress. Photo courtesy of Chris Honeywell
President Trump as portrayed by English teacher Cynthia Roenisch addressed the seniors during Mock Congress.
Photo courtesy of Chris Honeywell

“I really enjoyed Ms. Roenisch’s state of the union address. That was probably my favorite part of this year,” Molly Gerber, government/economics and psychology teacher, said.

Aside from Roenisch’s speech, Gerber finds other factors favorable about Mock Congress. She believes that the best thing about the event is that it involves “the entire senior class. It is something everybody is participating in at the same time and I never had something like that in my school.”

“Not everyone goes to prom. Not everyone goes to senior picnic, but everyone, for the most part, attended [Mock Congress],” Gerber added. “It’s a cool shared experience.”

The House convened in Patton Gym. Photo courtesy of Chris Honeywell
The House convened in Patton Gym.
Photo courtesy of Chris Honeywell

Some students agreed with Gerber whereas others had serious criticism about the event.

“I expected it to be more professional. Much more professional,” senior Ara Lee said. “In [the] senate, [the students] were much more immature and they did not care about the topics and the bills as seriously as others.”

Complaints about how serious students took the event are a common theme among those who were in the Senate. However, many students from the House thought the event went well.

“The event did not meet my expectations. It actually exceeded them like crazy,” senior Anson Nguyen said. “I enjoyed it a lot.”

A common reason why so many enjoyed Mock Congress in the House of Representatives was because of the creative and controversial bills. Also, the students’ interactions and involvement with each bill also created a more interesting day.

“My favorite moment was when we had really active speakers. During the illegalization of porn act and the EPA bill, everyone was super heated,” Nguyen said. “Everyone had a little fun and a bunch of people went to ask questions and the speaker really enjoyed themselves as well.”

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