Leading the Way

SF students participate in Model Senate at Temple University.


Submitted Photo

Spring-Ford Model UN advisor Rachelle Hafer and student delegates (from left) Vaishnavi Vatsal, Akshaya Shyamsundar Rekha, Manya Natakala, Liyana Kabir, Andrea Guillen Sandrea, Ishaan Patel, Tarneet Singh, and Niel Bhatt take part in the Model Senate at Temple University.

Cassandra Dryburgh, Staff Writer

Members of Spring Ford’s Model UN attended the 2022 Model Senate Foreign Relations Committee at Temple University in Philadelphia in December, and the event lived up to its name.

Students contributed to a model senate meeting and were assigned the role of someone who would actually be present.

“This program was run by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia,” explained Model UN advisor Rachelle Hafer. “Students were assigned a variety of roles, three of those roles being Expert Witness Mark Milly, General of the United States Army; Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, and even Alina Romanawski, Ambassador to Iran, US State Department. Our Spring-Ford students had to embody the mindset of these real people. They spent the entirety of the day assessing and presenting on the two very timely topics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s role in the Middle East.”

This year, nine high schools across Pennsylvania, including Spring-Ford, participated in the event. Akshaya Shaymsundar Rekha served the role of co-chair, working alongside Andrea Guillen, Vaishnavi Vatsal, Ishaan Patel, Niel Bhatt, Tarneet Singh, and Liyana Kabir, who all contributed as expert witnesses, with Manya Natakala filling the role of Senator Ted Cruz in the meeting.

“This event helped me understand Ukraine’s crisis through the perspectives of many different people who were involved in it,” said Shaymsundar Rekha. “For example, there was a representative of NATO, who brought information on how Russia’s war affected the group and other European countries.

“Additionally, I learned how the Senate ran, from the presentation of different policies, to questioning expert witnesses/persons of interest on their ideas and thoughts on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and whether to approve these policies based on my Political party affiliation and position on the war.”

After opening remarks from members of Temple’s World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, and even Pennsylvania’s state senate, students assessed the issues in teams. They completed this in two sessions, with each lasting about two hours. The first included committee co-chair introductions, roll calls, and introductions alongside the questioning of expert witnesses.

The second session continued the questioning process and had the groups create policies to address their respective issues.

At the event’s conclusion, each group presented policy proposals to peers. Spring-Ford Model UN president Akshaya Shaymsundar Rekha won an award for being a ranking member of one of the model senates. Furthermore, Andrea Guillen and Ishaan Patel won awards for their contributions as expert witnesses.

“I played the role of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley,” stated Patel.

“Basically, I tried to model what his responses would be in an official setting, and I guess I did it well enough to win an award.”

The Model Senate was an excellent preview of the future for Spring-Ford’s Model UN since another conference occurred in March. That event, hosted by Drexel University, was a mock Global Economic Forum where students were assigned countries to represent as student delegates and were assigned groups to create solutions concerning various global economic issues. At the end of the event, they proposed solutions similar to that of December’s Model Senate, but on a global scale.

“All of these students should feel proud to have stepped into such large roles and represent Spring-Ford at this prestigious event,” Hafer said.