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'Model Congress' event set for students

Wednesday, October 28, 2009  
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By Holly Johns
Published: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 1:34 PM CDT

ROCKTON — Four students at Hononegah High School will get a chance to feel what it’s like to be in Congress.

Seniors Michael Chiodini, Jennifer Rhead and Rachel King, along with junior Jordan Stella, will be heading to the Burpee Center at Rockford College on Nov. 12 to join the “Model Congress” event.

The event, hosted by Congressman Don Manzullo and the Congressional Youth Leadership Council (CYLC), is designed to find outstanding youth from across the United States and give them the opportunity to interact with others on current events and issues.

Rich Carter, a spokesman for Manzullo’s office, said the 21st Century Leadership Conference has been running for 10 years and will continue this year in a different form.

High school students from Winnebago, Boone, Stephenson, JoDaviess, Carroll, Whiteside, Ogle and DeKalb counties still will be invited to participate in the event, but this year the one-day event will run more like the U.S. Congress.

“It’s a different aspect of leadership,” Carter said. “We have decided to do an official mock-Congress event.”

Conferences in the past have included workshops and discussion forums for the students to interact with each other and discuss current hot topics.

This year, the students will take positions as Congressmen, debating and voting on current events. Carter said students should be receiving information now on the topics to be prepared for the discussions.

Hononegah High School adviser Kris Sanderson said all senior and junior level teachers are asked to nominate students they think will be interested in participating. The chosen students are then given a questionnaire to fill out.

The head of the social studies department, Tom Polaski, chooses four students to attend each year. In the past, he has chosen one boy and one girl from each grade, however this year lacked any junior-level interests from females. Two senior females will be attending this year instead.

Stella, the only junior student, said the nomination form asked the students various questions regarding their interest in government. He was glad to be nominated.

“I thought this would be a fun experience and be really interesting,” he said. “Not to mention it looks great on a college application.”

Stella said he’s not interested in being a politician, but is interested in politics in general. He had met Manzullo once in seventh grade on a field trip to Springfield, but has never met him personally.

Manzullo’s office had contacted the CYLC to discuss the National Young Leaders Conference that is held in Washington, D.C. The group agreed to bringing the entire program on the road, marking the first time it has happened outside of Washington, D.C.

“They are bringing their whole program out here,” Carter said. “It’s very exciting that we have an organization of that caliber actually coming out of Washington, D.C. to put on their program here.”

Carter said as an extra special surprise, the special guests who will take the position of the speaker of the house will be former Speaker of the House Denny Hester.

“It should be a pretty remarkable event for those who get to attend,” Carter said.

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