Written by Damian Sandoval and Shushantika Barua
What is MGA?
The Model General Assembly, more commonly known as MGA, is a program for high school students who are interested in the process of how bills are created. “[Students] join and enroll because it is a learning experience and an opportunity to understand the inner workings of our government at a local level,” says past participant, Phillip Wince.
In March, this program, supported by YMCA, has an annual three-day session where they provide a government simulation over those few days . Students participating take on the role of elected officials, lobbyists, and reporters. “The program focuses on the process of bill writing and researching laws students might want to write that are considered important to them(…) It is a different program that is not, sort of, school related. […] We don’t cover things at a 9th grade level. It is a senior level class, but young kids can get a head start in the government process if they are interested in it,” states Byron Schwind, current MGA sponsor and adviser at the Arlington Career Center.
In MGA, students prepare their own bills based on existing laws and present their bills to an assembly. Students will research, substinate, and debate their suggested bills. “The UL program [underclassmen legislative] workshop [is] where you can make your own bill. It is fun and entertaining. It may seem like a lot of work, but it is actually a lot of fun, and I would recommend the experience to anyone interested,”says Rayan Rhomari, a former member of the program.
“There are many different things you can learn through [MGA]. Students learn to collaborate with other students, there’s always the fun trip down in Richmond, and it’s a different program […] where students can get a headstart in the government process,” says Byron Shwind. Students spend a weekend in a hotel hosted by the MGA conference in March. This year participants will be staying in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Richmond.
How did MGA start?
The beginnings of Virginia’s MGA started in 1948. Since then, more than 50,000 Virginia students participated in this program. In 2009, Byron Schwind started MGA in APS at our very own Arlington Career Center. Mr. Schwind has worked at the Career Center teaching World History and US History, as well as contributing to MGA since 2009.
Past Accounts and Experiences from Students of Arlington Tech
Many students of Arlington Tech participate in this program and have multiple experiences and accounts of what they learned and continue to learn. . From learning what shoes they should wear in a professional setting to understanding the inner workings of the state of Virginia’s government.
One bill introduced by an Arlington Tech student, Lena Bolz, proposed starting bus schedules at 7:30 am instead of the usual incredibly early time of 6:45 am. “This bill would bring more time for students to get ready in the morning, [be] less rushed, and let students receive more time for sleep. Students will benefit from […]having more energy at school and better health in general,” says Lena Bolz.
Not only is MGA an opportunity to learn and understand firsthand the inner workings of our government, “You get to have an experience you will keep for the rest of your life,” states Phillip J. Wince. When asked what the best part of Model General Assembly was Philip J. Wince answered, “Well, I can’t say food, right? But, other than food, I also enjoyed making bills and debating with people from different schools. And a weekend away in a hotel with my buds was also pretty cool.”
Other opinions of MGA from past members, including Rayan Rhomari and Karen Cruz, state that the reason they joined was curiosity. Students also joined because being part of this program gives a better image of the student when applying to colleges. Things they stated to have learned in MGA include learning bill processes through working in groups and workshops.
“Students learned to make bills through working in workshops and going through the process. It may have just been a simulation of the process, but in a way, you learn more from the experience because there [is] more room for errors that can be corrected many times just immediately after,” voices Phillip.
MGA does have a cost with it. Throughout the year, a student will have to pay for the registration for the three day trip to Richmond, which is $275. This fee includes conference registration, all printed materials, a T-shirt, admission to pre-legislative workshops, two nights’ lodging, a cocktail reception dinner, and admission to the Youth Governor’s Ball.
This three day government simulation provides an amazing opportunity for students to network with others interested in the government process. Parents and adults may chaperone and join MGA in the government process. The fee is $100 for adults with shared room and $250 for adults who would prefer a private room.
How Can You Join?
Members of MGA have meetings during lunch two times per month. Meetings are held every other Thursday. Participants are also considered to join the 3-day assembly meeting hosted in Richmond. “I suggest having a want to make bills and learn about the process. In order to get the most out of the experience, I believe students should have at least some passion in government or laws,” suggests Phillip J. Wince.
Anyone can join from grades of 9th through 12, however, 9th graders have limited options. Any questions or concerns may be discussed with Mr. Schwind at firstname.lastname@example.org or personally at school. His office is located by Academy and JROTC sections on the second floor. For more information, visit http://virginiaymca.org/mga-program/.