"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Model Citizens

‘Bringing about a world that ought to be’ takes on many forms in the modern world. A humanitarian approach to law making through the voice of our youngest generation is one path to fulfilling this mission. In Model Congress, led by teachers Rachel Barany and Joseph Sills, Middle Schoolers work diligently since January to develop a solid understanding of government function, analyze current events, and effectively put their solutions to real world problems into writing.

Students in Grades 6-8 constructed bills on a range of topics. Olivia ‘29 and Lily ‘29 concentrated on free access to healthcare for those under the poverty line and offered a financial analysis to support their measures. Other topics included banning standardized testing for college admissions, regulating medicinal drug prices, abolishing private prisons, regulating overseas drone strikes, and access to contraceptives for minors. 


Anabelle ‘29 and Eva ‘29 had the opportunity to interview Sergeant Eric Dargenio who who runs the facial recognition unit of the New York Police Department in response to their bill to bring transparency around facial recognition technology and inherent bias. Sergeant Dargenio reviewed the history of the NYPD’s Facial Recognition Program at its onset in 2011, information sharing between countries, the use of social media in cracking cases, and demystified what is commonly seen on television and in movies. Students actively asked questions throughout the session and Anabelle and Eva were able to prepare their arguments in real time on this technology potentially leading to false arrests.

Additionally Jillian Straus, Friends parent and speech writer, hosted a workshop in preparation for the big day. She urged students to speak with passion and persuasiveness and find great public speakers to emulate. She also guided the class through a couple practice runs. Ellie ‘28 volunteered to present her bill, an act to provide menstrual products to women in prisons. Jullian and fellow students reviewed the strength of her bill and made recommendations to make her final presentation even more impactful. 

Student debaters also worked hand-in-hand with Upper School mentors (Nina ‘23, Ben ‘23, Maya ‘24, Julia ‘25, Isabelle '25 and Sascha ‘26) to coach them on how to make persuasive and compelling arguments. Upper Schoolers also take this time to help with individual speech writing, and address questions.

The program culminated on May 6, where 36 Friends students were divided into a total of 18 different committees of about 12 delegates. In those 18 committees, seven middle schoolers earned a "Golden Gavel" as best legislator among all their peers, and three more students earned Honorable Mention.   

Friends Seminary actively promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in all its programs and operations, including admissions, financial aid, hiring, and all facets of the educational experience. To form a community which strives to reflect the world’s diversity, we do not discriminate on the basis of race or color, religion, nationality, ethnicity, economic background, physical ability, sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. Friends Seminary is an equal opportunity employer.

222 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
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Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.