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Student Gets a Taste of Life as a Congresswoman
Cadesha Pearson is pictured in the Financial Services Committee room during the U.S. Model House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
Pearson is not a Congresswoman – but for five days in April, she got a realistic taste of what life would be like as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Pearson, a junior at the University of Hartford majoring in politics and government and communication, was selected to take part in the inaugural United States Model House of Representatives, sponsored by the American Youth Scholarship Foundation. From April 17-21, college students representing Congressional districts around the country drafted bills and amendments, attended party caucuses, and debated and voted on legislation in the actual Capitol Hill committee rooms used by U.S. House members. The program is designed to give students hands-on experience and education about the inner workings of Congress, as they learn about policy-making, relationship building, negotiating, and a variety of other skills.
Only one student was selected for the program from each Congressional district. Pearson was chosen to represent Connecticut’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the Greater Hartford area. As part of her application, she designed a “Vote for Cadesha Pearson” campaign flyer, which stated her qualifications and why she would be a good choice to represent the district in the Model House.
Each “student representative” was required to draft a bill for the Model House session. Pearson’s bill would have required the federal government to fund all costs associated with implementing the "No Child Left Behind Act." The committee that she was assigned to, the Committee on Financial Services, did not take up the bill, focusing instead on proposals that would: increase the minimum wage; enable people who don’t have good credit to get housing loans; and require construction of a levee in New Orleans that could withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
The committee spent the most time on the minimum wage bill, and in the process, members learned a great deal about the art of compromise. Pearson and her fellow Democrats (she considers herself to be an independent, but was a Democrat for the purposes of the Model House) wanted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 all at once, but in order to get Republican support, they agreed to a gradual phase-in of the increase.
They also learned about the fate that awaits many bills in Washington – the compromise minimum wage bill was approved by the committee and went to the full House, where the student representatives ran out of time and never voted on it.
This was not Pearson’s first foray into the world of politics and government. This semester, she has been an intern at the Connecticut General Assembly. In high school, Pearson, a native of Queens, N.Y., participated in the New York City Model Congress. On campus, her many activities have included serving as public relations vice president for the Student Government Association. After college, Pearson plans to attend law school.
Pearson said she is grateful to a number of people for helping her take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Leslie Smith, adjunct faculty member in the Department of Politics and Government, helped Pearson with her application and “campaign flyer.” A number of other people at the University helped Pearson raise the $1,450 registration fee and transportation costs she needed to participate.
Pearson especially wished to thank the following people for assisting her with fundraising: Fred Jenoure, Special Assistant to the President and University Ombudsman; John Carson, Vice President of University Relations; Lee Peters, Vice President for Student Affairs; DeLois Traynum Lindsey, Assistant Vice President for Student Development; Sherwood Lincoln, Aramark Resident District Manager; Bonnie Robertson, Manager of the University Bookstore; Crime Prevention Officer Luis Natal; and Marlon Lindsay of Prospect Financial Services.
“Without them I wouldn't have had the opportunity to participate in such an invaluable experience,” Pearson said.