Wardlaw-Hartridge Students Participate In JSA Winter Congress In Washington D.C.

Wardlaw-Hartridge students arrive at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. before the Winter Congress. (Photo courtesy of Wardlaw-Hartridge)

Wardlaw-Hartridge students arrive at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. before the Winter Congress. (Photo courtesy of Wardlaw-Hartridge)

EDISON — On Feb. 24-26, a small but spirited group of Wardlaw-Hartridge students participated in the Junior Statesmen of America Winter Congress in Washington D.C.

Billy Buchbinder of Scotch Plains, Jimmy Nolan of Colonia, Danny Marques of Elizabeth, Ernest Afflu of Edison, Mike Anastasiou of Scotch Plains, Ali Reza of Carteret, Yousaf Razvi of Somerset, Alex Wang of Somerville, Liban Ahmed of Scotch Plains, Aryaman Nichani of Scotch Plains and George Minnium of Scotch Plains continued what has become a very successful school tradition. The group was accompanied by JSA advisor Allyson Schieve (director of the school’s writing center) and Dean of Students James O’Halloran.

The students arrived in Union Station and hopped on the Metro to their hotel. They began their visit by checking out the Newseum, a museum that was packed with priceless artifacts. The Newseum had eclectic exhibits like 20-foot fragments of the Berlin wall, and the Unabomber’s shack. After a quick lunch there, the students went to the National Gallery of Art, right across the street.

After the sightseeing, the group went back to the hotel for the opening ceremonies. They had the usual JSA speakers, members of its governing board and student mayors. Then the students got a taste of the nightly games and entertainment, like the Mr. JSA pageant and the dance.

On Saturday, the students got right into the thick of debating. They went to assigned rooms, where the bills were introduced. These bills were submitted by students and selected by JSA officials. The rooms were arranged with a Senate and a House.

For a bill to be passed as a law, it had to be passed in both the House and the Senate. Alex Wang, Liban Ahmed and Danny Marques were all in the Senate. Billy Buchbinder, Aryaman Nichani, Ernest Afflu, and Jimmy Nolan were in the House. The debates went from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., only breaking for lunch.

“This may sound tedious, but all of us getting involved and impassioned led to taut political debates. The people that wrote the bill had to prepare a “pro” argument, whereas another person would pick “con” and debate against your bill,” Nolan said.

The bill that Ahmed and Nolan wrote (the only one from the Wardlaw-Hartridge group that was selected) was passed in the House, but not in the Senate. Wang successfully stopped a bill from passing as the main “con” speaker. Nichani and Marques both served as subsequent speakers, supporting their main argument and debunking their opponents. Everyone else asked astute questions that challenged the speaker’s argument.

“Our representation at the trip may have been numerically small, but our presence was massive and we made ourselves known by debating and questioning deftly,” Nolan said.

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