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Harvard Model Congress Asia: A Simulation Sparks Growth for Keys Students

This past January, a group of our Keys students in Grades 10-11 embarked on an exciting journey to the 2024 Harvard Model Congress Asia. This unique conference provided them with an immersive simulation of the legislative process and the chance to connect with peers from schools across the region.

For these students, the Model Congress was an impactful learning experience that will stay with them long after the conference. They gained first-hand insight into lawmaking while honing critical skills like communication, collaboration, and problem solving.

Now back at Keys, we sat down with two of  these inspiring student delegates, Fritz Navarro (Grade 10) and Micky So (Grade 11), to hear about their experiences in their own words. Read on for an inside look into the 2024 Model Congress through the eyes of our own students. From debating complex policies to navigating networking receptions, these students pull back the curtain on their unforgettable journey of growth.

What was your overall impression of the Harvard Model Congress event in Seoul?

Fritz: I was nervous at first as this was my first time attending a Model Congress but as we were going into our committee sessions, I realized that there are also a lot of people who are like me who are nervous and their first time attending a congress. When the session finally started, I immediately realized that this event required a lot of quick critical thinking which I am not good at since I was diagnosed with a 2-year cognitive delay when I was in Grade 6 but I pushed through anyway. Everyone was so nice and understanding. I talked to some veterans who joined the previous HMCA conference and they noticed some changes such as the chairs being a lot nicer and fun, the food choices for lunch improved as the veterans last time only had sandwiches, and finally, new activities being implemented such as an accurate representation of how society can be divided during elections. That was fun since it showed how candidates lobby for people and a simulation of the US elections. That left me with the impression that HMCA takes feedback from the delegates and tries new ways to improve this prestigious experience.

Micky: I was really excited to attend the conference as this was my first in-person Model Congress. There was definitely a strong energy in the crowd as everyone was nervous, excited, and eager to participate. Once we got to our respective committee rooms, everyone was more serious and ready to contribute to the discussion.

What was the most memorable session at the Congress and why?

Fritz: One of the most memorable sessions I had, aside from having snowball fights with other delegates during lunchtime. It’s one of those times in which the aspect of collaboration kicks in. In HMCA, they would let us experience how real delegates react to crises such as flooding or famine. Some of my classmates told me in their committees, they had crises in which they had to think of solutions to meteor strikes and another one had to face a zombie apocalypse. In my committee, we faced a flooding and famine issue and all of us had to think of a solution by drafting a bill quickly. Collaborating with the entire committee was fun as all of us thought of creative ways to respond to the crisis. 

Micky: The most memorable moment for me during the conference was on the second day when I was able to author and propose a bill that ended up passing. I remember lobbying for my solution early on in the day and defending my clauses in the authorship speech. Other than that, I remember a particularly long pro-con speech (A back-and-forth debate-like discussion to break down the pros and cons of the proposed bill) which had almost everyone in my committee defending their stance on the bill. I felt that every one of us was engaged in the conversation and many strong discussion points were brought up.

How did the Congress conversations and connections influence your perspectives or provide new insights?

Fritz: Progressing through the HMCA experience, it was fairly difficult to connect with other people as I was the only Keys Student on my committee. Talking to some people and connecting with others, I got to know them such as where they’re from. I even met some fellow Filipinos who are from Cebu and another one who is originally from India but moved to the Philippines to live there permanently so I knew that HMCA is inclusive and diverse. Another perspective that changed for me…no offense but people from Indonesia are surprisingly competitive and would take it very seriously, including when it comes to participation and filing bills. 

Micky: More than wanting to prove myself as a strong speaker, I felt really enlightened throughout the whole experience and learned so much from the people on my committee. It was very interesting to see how everyone interpreted the presented issue through the lens of their respective senator/congressperson, and there were ideas that I didn't even consider! Regardless of whether the idea aligned with my person, I felt that all the solutions were innovative and there were resolutions that I couldn't have done by myself.

What key takeaways from the Seoul Congress will shape your studies moving forward?

Fritz: One of the key takeaways I should keep in mind is to prepare a lot more. HMCA requires a lot of preparation, including your research as gadgets are not allowed during committee meetings. So we had to carry binders with all the information we wanted to say, including printed articles as evidence. Another takeaway I have is that HMCA is a proper training ground for incoming leaders. HMCA teaches us and exposes us to real and difficult problems, they don’t simplify anything during the conference nor they don’t underestimate it given the fact we’re still teenagers, everything is true to life, a replica of what happens to real model congresses. 

Micky: My key takeaways from the congress are that you can always learn from other people, and how to find your place in the conversation. While I was never the most talkative person, I was always able to find a place to contribute my ideas and lead where I saw fit. I felt that everyone in the discussion contributed to their niche of expertise and perspective. Through this, we were able to create a well-rounded, all-encompassing solution. Success is not just measured by what you achieve; it's also measured by how much you learn and other personal breakthroughs you make.

The 2024 Harvard Model Congress Asia provided invaluable learning experiences for our Keys students. Through engaging in this immersive simulation, they gained critical skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and leadership. Our students represented Keys exceptionally well, contributing their own diverse perspectives while respecting others. We are incredibly proud of how they embraced this opportunity for growth. The insights, empathy, and problem-solving abilities they developed will serve them well as they continue their academic journeys and beyond. Participating in conferences like HMCA prepares our students to be active citizens who can work together to better our communities and world.

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