SIC Underdogs Win State Government Competition

March 7, 2014

The state of Illinois faces a series of challenges ranging from a structural deficit to an unemployment rate higher than the national average. Students at Southeastern Illinois College had the opportunity to tackle these and many other issues, at the recently completed Model Illinois Government (MIG) legislative competition held at the state Capital.  Judging by the results SIC students appear poised for careers in public service sooner rather than later.  SIC won the competition and was named “Outstanding Small Delegation” —the highest honor bestowed on a delegation of nine or fewer. 

“MIG is a unique educational opportunity,” said political science instructor and advisor Matt Lees.  “It is one of the oldest and most prestigious intercollegiate competitions in the country.  The simulation gives students the opportunity to debate bills in the actual House and Senate chambers in Springfield.”

This year 235 students from 17 colleges and universities participated. Southeastern Illinois College led all small delegations in total points, leadership positions, and major awards (2). 

“I’ve done a lot of things in my life but nothing compares to the experience that I had this weekend during the simulation,” said first year delegate Jacob Webb of Harrisburg.

Southeastern secured four committee whip positions, one floor whip position, a committee chair, and awards for Outstanding Senate Chair and Outstanding Original Legislation. 

First-year delegates included Jody Abell, Jr. of Carmi; Samantha Cockrum, Jose Durbin, Jacob Webb, and Salena Russell all of Harrisburg; and Traci Hornbeck of Galatia.   

Returning delegates included Head Delegate Cassie Rea of Harrisburg and Jenny Pruitt of Broughton.

Delegates securing committee whip positions included Cockrum, Durbin, Hornbeck, and Webb.  Traci Hornbeck was also elected to a floor whip position. 

Cassie Rea was selected as a committee chair and later won the David Hunt Award for Outstanding Senate Committee Chair, while lobbyist Jenny Pruitt won the Ramsey Award for Outstanding Original Legislation, and was also a finalist for the Robert Kent Award for Outstanding Lobbyist (MIG rules prohibit a single delegate from winning multiple awards so Pruitt was disqualified despite having the most votes.)

What is particularly impressive was not only that SIC was the smallest school in terms of enrollment at the simulation, but the team only featured two returning delegates.

“When six of our eight students are competing for the first time, you need your experienced students to be an example,” said Lees.  “Both Cassie and Jenny provided incredible leadership.”

Pruitt played the role of lobbyist and crafted her own original legislation, and successfully guided it from committee all the way to the Governor’s desk where it was signed into law.  The bill she wrote dealt with the establishment of a state mandated High School Sociology course in order to increase the understanding of those with disabilities, a subject with special significance to her as Pruitt is legally blind.

“Delegates were genuinely touched by her story.  Some students were so impacted that they were actually crying during debate.  She has a great deal to be proud of,” said Lees.

“There are no words to describe the amount of joy I experienced this year,” said Pruitt.  “I was well equipped to speak on every bill.”

First year delegate Selena Russell played the role of a journalist and filed numerous stories for the MIG Journal.  Russell added, “ I wrote many stories and could not have had a better time doing so.” 

Head delegate Cassie Rea led this group.  “Throughout the semester Cassie gained the respect of everyone on our team.” said Lees. “She truly led by example.”