Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) High School students had the opportunity to participate in two incredible activities this month: Mock Trial and Penn Model Congress. HAFTR came home from both events as winners. We won the Mock Trial case, and a student received honorable mention at Penn for an outstanding performance. Both events, although completely different in essence, required students to have strikingly similar qualities to succeed: assertiveness and confidence.
One could have easily mistaken a mock trial practice for an actual courtroom trial. The night of Feb. 6, the team spent more than three hours practicing and making sure that they were well read on every aspect of the case. “I felt that we were well prepared, we knew what stipulations to ask, and we absolutely knew the case in side and out,” said Matthew Goldstein, a junior.
The trial took place at Nassau County court in Hempstead and was quite official: students were required to comply with routine court procedures, such as addressing the judge as “Your Honor.” Luckily, the team’s hard work paid off and the HAFTR team asked difficult questions, which the opposing team could not respond to adequately, resulting in HAFTR’s victory. “Every life experience and accomplishment helps formulate our perspective and build upon our knowledge. Our win in ‘mock’ trial signifies a tremendous stride towards our ‘real’ future,” said junior Samantha Lish.
The second of the two major events, Penn Model Congress, began on Feb. 7. HAFTR students boarded the buses to attend the Model Congress conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Students were required to write bills beforehand, which they would present to their committees. Upon arriving at UPenn that Thursday students immediately changed into business attire to attend their first committee sessions. In addition to the unique experience of model congressional sessions in which students participated, students were able to meet a wide variety of people from schools throughout the nation and build lasting connections. “The friends you make and the people you meet are absolutely amazing,” said Yael Waxman, a junior.
On Friday night, Feb. 8, HAFTR students went to the Hillel, one of the largest on a college campus, to have a traditional Friday night dinner. The experience is unique because it allows all types of Jews to come together in an environment to which they would not normally be exposed.
Although we were unable to attend three of the sessions that took place on Saturday, this did not stop HAFTR students from showing that they meant business. Goldstein sat on the intelligence committee, and brought compelling arguments for and against certain bills. He was awarded an honorable mention, an honor difficult to achieve for even those who attend all sessions. “I love it every year I go back. When you go into the room you see people who take it very seriously and spend the whole year preparing, people in there who wrote their bills the day before, and people who are somewhere in the middle. It’s important to be a mix of the two, to have fun, make your point but not go too crazy,” he said.
Overall, almost no attendee could deny the fact that he met wonderful people, and truly had an great time. The atmosphere is great, the people are amazing, the speakers are inspirational, and the experience is captivating. “It’s one of the highlights of my year. It’s just a really good time,” said junuior Amanda Kanefsky.