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Portledge in the Now.

Portlege and Competitive Simulation Clubs

Whether it is navigating the particulars of an arson trial, coming up with solutions to alleviate the global opioid crisis, or discussing the ethical implications of being cruel to a cute video game character in The Legend of Zelda Portledge’s experiential learning clubs are vehicles for our students to show others how they live our pillars in real life scenarios. 

The skills required to cultivate kindness, honor, respect, and purpose are essential to open communication which is the most important aspect of participating in simulation and discussion-based competitions posed by the Ethics & Civil Discourse Society, Mock Trial, and Model United Nations. Over the past few years, these student-led organizations have had an explosion of popularity and success thanks to committed members and their faculty advisors.

One of Portledge’s newest student organizations, the Ethics & Civil Discourse Society, was founded last year by Robert Meshechock ‘24. This solid group of senior and junior students endeavors to engage in competitive and collaborative dialogue to discuss real-life and timely moral issues with their peers. Civil Discourse and Ethics competitions differ from Speech and Debate in that students are asked to thoughtfully discuss a topic, rather than take a fixed position. Meshechock explains, “the conversations differ greatly from debate, as the priority isn't on determining a victor and loser, but instead working as a community to stay informed and knowledgeable on pressing topics in a genial and productive fashion so that all win.” These topics can range from censorship, disinformation, nuclear deterrence, the use of AI, and a multitude of other contemporary topics. Across the country, Ethics & Civil Discourse clubs were created to fill a perceived gap in philosophy education at the secondary education level. Mecheckock says he “felt that my community at school would appreciate a space for these pressing, contemporary conversations in a meaningful and productive manner, as there were pre-existing attempts to tackle these issues in an open forum.” When participating in the ethics bowls or engaging with their peers in the classroom, students involved in the Society are able to show off their critical thinking skills, civic engagement, ethical awareness, and a keen knowledge of different perspectives, while engaging in conversations to better their communities and the world.
 
While the Ethics & Civil Discourse Society encourages spirited philosophical conversations, the Mock Trial competitions bring the drama of a courtroom to a fever pitch. Sponsored by the New York State Bar Association and locally by the Nassau County Bar Association, Mock Trial is an academic co-curricular activity where students from all over the state come together to learn advanced law lessons in ethics, civility, and professionalism, all of which fortify their knowledge and intuitive reasoning to use in their lives in an increasingly complex world. After months of learning courtroom procedures, for example, raising objections, entering exhibits into evidence, and impeaching witnesses, among other functions, some team members write original direct and cross-examination questions for students who will play the roles of lawyers for defense and prosecution, while others memorize the experiences of the witnesses in order to bring their identities to life on the courtroom stage.  Once at the trial students take on the roles of litigators, defendants, and witnesses and navigate the particulars of courtroom decorum in order to convince the judge of their conclusions and preferred outcome of the case. Junior Mock Trial member Kajal Khandelwal ‘25 loves to participate because “It is a fun activity where you get to speak out loud and advocate for something you believe in which I really enjoy doing. It requires you to think on your feet, all while you get to be inside a real courtroom!”

The drama that can be had in the simulated courtrooms of Mock Trial seems all the more dire when played out on the global stage as it can be in Model United Nations conferences. Model UN is a cooperative simulation where students complete research on countries in addition to contemporary and historical global issues in order to work with other delegates to create solutions modeled after United Nations resolutions.  This hands-on use of critical thinking skills and moral courage to take positions on complex topics are indicative of the skills we are attempting to impart to our Portledge students as a whole and it is wonderful to see them utilized successfully in each situation they are faced with, whether it be tackling the global opioid crisis or saving New York City as a member of the Avengers. Our students’ love for Model UN has taken some on their own to conferences such as sophomore Nicholas Zografos ‘26. In January Nico traveled to New Haven to participate in Yale’s 50th Model UN Conference where he earned a distinction in one of the crisis scenarios as an honorable delegate, a testament to the dedication and success of our Model UN team.
 
The obstacles posed in Model UN, Mock Trial, and in the Ethics & Civil Discourse Society meets can be difficult, complex, and extremely rewarding when pulled off correctly. Thanks in particular to our community-centered environment at Portledge, our students are uniquely equipped to work well with others, identify unique perspectives, and work together towards solutions to aid in a better future.


(L to R) Olivia Marrale’25, Jake Riggio ‘24, Elon Prybutok ‘25, Robert Meshechok’24, Kodelia Keane ‘24, and Chrisitan Sabatino ‘24 at the 2024 Long Island Ethics Bowl at Hofstra University.
 
Cole Sanveren’26 and Nico Zografos ‘26 with their honorable delegate and position paper certifications at the 2023 Herricks HS Model UN Conference.
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