A Brief History of HHS Debate

MODEL CONGRESS CONVENES

At the tail end of the 1993-1994 school year, two juniors with an abiding interest in politics and debate, Yuval Levin and Adam Keiper, approached Mr. Fenster about starting a club to pursue their interests. They decided upon Model Congress, and the club was launched in the fall of 1994. A grand total of three students, the founders along with freshman Andrew Keiper attended the first meeting. Throughout the first year, about ten students attended each meeting debating a variety of topics. Six students attended the Rutgers Federal Government Simulation (later Rutgers Model Congress) in 1995.

Model Congress steadily grew over the next several years. Mr. Fenster took on a co-advisor, Ms. Mary Sok (now at Watchung Hills Regional High School) for a couple of years, before Mr. Ryalls took over her position. The team continued to attend Rutgers annually and added the Yale Model Congress in the fall of 1996. At the 1997 Rutgers Model Congress, the Hillsborough team was so dominant that its two states each won team awards, necessitating a conference rules change evaluating schools as a whole rather than by their individual delegations.

A NEW MODEL

Hillsborough High School's Model United Nations club started some time in the 1980s, but until the mid-nineties it was strictly a club that attended two conferences annually, the Princeton Model Congress and the YMCA Model United Nations in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The membership ranged from eight to a dozen members annually.

In 1995, Mr. Fenster and Mr. Ryalls took over advising responsibilities from Ms. Coyle. The team won its first conference award in January 1995. For the first few years the HHS Model United Nations club continued as a two-trip extracurricular activity, but in the 1997-1998 school year, everything changed when UN began meeting on a bi-weekly basis. Students were assigned countries for the year and debated assigned topics twice a month. On average, a dozen members attended each meeting in that first year, but there was no turning back and the meetings steadily grew to an average of 25 to 30 members each week.

THE MODERN ERA

After tiring of years of dealing with the cumbersome "HHS Model Congress and Model United Nations" name, the advisors adopted the sleeker "HHS Debate" as the organization's name beginning in 2000 (even though according to the Board of Education, we're still two separate groups). Ms. Morrison began co-advising HHS Debate in the fall of 2001 simultaneous to the club growing too large to fit in a regular classroom, necessitating a switch to Room 302. The size of the club has fluctuated over the years, averaging between 25 and 40 members per meeting annually.

UNCHARTERED TERRITORY

Ms. Morrison's presence helped spur a dramatic increase in female membership and participation. In the fall of 2006, we actually had an equal number of male and female members at multiple meetings. In 2003, thanks to the generosity of the Beard family, we launched our own web site: hhsdebate.org. Here we are, seventeen thousand forum messages later.

LONG DISTANCE

In 2002, plans were made to attend the Bath Schools International Model United Nations conference in England, but a lockdown of Heathrow Airport scuttled the club's plans for its first international trip. The following year the trip happened and the HHS delegation won a commendation for its efforts. Subsequently the intrepid travelers on the HHS Debate team went to Harvard Model Congress in San Francisco (2004 and 2011), the Berlin Model United Nations in Germany (2005), the Vanderbilt University Model United Nations in Nashville (2006 and 2011), the Secondary Schools United Nations Symposium in Montreal (2007) and the Duke University Model United Nations in Durham, North Carolina (2009 and 2012). 

LEGACY OF SUCCESS

Although the club has changed over the years, one thing has remained constant: regardless of the size of the club or the location of the conference, members of HHS Debate have consistently put forth tremendous effort and have been rewarded for their accomplishments. Individual and team awards are wonderful to receive, but the real reward has been the development of public speaking and leadership skills, the growth of confidence and poise, and the attainment of a tremendous breadth of knowledge by our members. Members of HHS Debate understand the role of the citizen in society and become active citizens long before they have the right to vote.