Two weeks ago, thirty-two Pine Crest students took a trip to Boston in order to further explore the lawmaking process through Harvard's annual Model Congress. This engagement within the civic process is especially important for understanding the inner workings of government, especially in a time when politics has become the forefront of American culture. Harvard Model Congress not only teaches students how the congressional process works, but also gives these students a space to voice ideas about changing the political system. The trip also provides an opportunity to bond and meet new people interested in American politics from other schools around the country. Each of the four days in session consisted of 2-3 hour long committee meetings dispersed throughout the day. During the meetings, groups of students represented real members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The student delegates worked closely with one another to discuss the prevalent topics that their designated committee would cover. Bills were written, amended, evaluated, voted on, and sometimes even passed into law through the full House and Senate. In many ways, the procedures followed in Model Congress closely emulated the real Congress. One of the most important aspects of the Model Congress experience is representing a government official whom you may have never heard of or may even disagree with. Co-President of Pine Crest's chapter of Model Congress Sydney Aronberg puts it best, saying, "The club presents a great opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zones and learn new perspectives. Since delegates are assigned to someone who may not share similar views, they are forced to look at an issue from a different angle; for example, you may consider yourself a very conservative Republican but at Model Congress you must put that background aside to represent someone like Bernie Sanders." The importance and purpose of Model Congress goes beyond the surface, Co-President Leah Schulman explains that "Model Congress presents us with a way to feel like we are making a difference and that we hold the power to create a stronger nation in the future and change politics for the better." Additionally, she states that in starting the club this school year, she hoped to give students exposure to a "More hands on experience of what actually goes on in Congress and an understanding of the complex nature of compromise and solving problems in our government in a real way rather than through the pages of a textbook." Both club presidents found a program that allowed for an engaging experience. Junior, Zach Vlessing, agreed saying, "Model congress was such a phenomenal trip. The forum helped forge amazing bonds and timeless friends." As did Junior, Isaac Masimore, who "Loved the trip" and said "it was super fun because you got to meet people you've never talked to at school before. It also was a great learning experience in the committee meetings, simulating the government was a lot of fun." Model UN wasn't the only government related program Pine Crest Students attended recently. A group of students led by Mr. Snyder participated in the Model United Nations this past weekend. Model United Nations (UN) is similar to Model Congress in many ways except it focuses more on international politics. The internal functions that Model UN tries to copy are far closer to standard UN procedures than those of Congress. At the conferences, Pine Crest members of Model UN represented Nepal, Oman, and Czech Republic, learning a variety of international stances on issues, and attempting to create and advocate for effective solutions that best suited their particular country. The President of Model UN, Hiba Ismail, has been a member of the Pine Crest chapter for all of high school. She firmly believes in the importance of the experience, stating, "I can say for sure that I've learned a lot about the issues that our world faces and the relationships that various countries have with one another." It is clear that Model UN offers a different perspective from Model Congress in that it allows Pine Crest students to portray geopolitical viewpoints from other regions of the world instead of just within our own worldview. However, the benefits of the Model UN experience exceed simple academic value. "In addition to the educational aspect of the club, you get to meet a lot of new people, develop social skills that will definitely help you in the long run, and forge strong bonds across an international community," said Ismail. It is evident that there is much to learn about the world around us and the systems that govern us, both on a national and international scale. Pine Crest Model Congress and Model UN provide priceless opportunities to begin that learning in a first-hand way.