Party in the House

Participants in Boys State “run” the government for a week.

Kristin Wells, Writer

State is not just for the athletes of the school.

This past June, seniors Matt Connell and Peter Dring went to state, Boys State. It was held at Kansas State University, and all the participants stayed in the dorms there.

“Boys State is a youth government program that gives juniors in the state of Kansas who are role models in their school a chance to hone their leadership skills and be part of government,” Dring said.

The boys create a mock government and run it as if they were running the state of Kansas.

“They try to get themselves organized. They try to get themselves elected to office, so you may have a governor. You may have senators and reps, and judges and all these type of things,” Ron Walker, AP U.S. History and AP Economics teacher, said, “Then they actually run for election. They have platforms and elections, and they actually try to get stuff done.”

Every boy who participates has a different job as part of the government.

“I was a city council member, so every day I met with our city council, and we passed resolutions that dealt with our city’s issues. Every day we got an update on our city’s statistics, crime rate, health, education, that sort of thing. We pass resolutions to help solve problems in our city and to try and improve those statistics,” Connell said.

Dring had a slightly different role and experience at Boys State. He ran for Attorney General, but he wasn’t chosen. He was then put into the Department of Justice.

“I just kind of thought it would be a cool place to be, as opposed to Department of Agriculture or Vets Affairs. What we were supposed to do was fill out forms and complete projects that were given to us online,” Dring said.

What Dring didn’t realize was that he was going to end up right in the middle of a scandal.

“What we actually ended up doing was finding out that a lot of campaign donations and money transfers were done illegally. We followed the money and the trail and found out that the Attorney General from my own party actually took money, which was illegal. Then he tried to frame us by having a pack put money in our account,” Dring said.

While Dring had a very interesting week, scandals like that are relatively rare at Boys State. Even with all that craziness, Dring still loved his time there.

“If I had the opportunity to, I would do it again. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life,” Dring said.

Connell benefited from the experience for many reasons.

“I took away from Boys State a stronger sense of civic duty and a greater understanding of the inner workings of the government and the many problems that our society faces,” Connell said.

The boys worked hard, but they had time to relax.  They had some free time and got to know people from across the state.

“By the end of the week, we all got pretty close as a group, as our council, and it was pretty emotional once everyone left, believe it or not at an all-guys camp,” Connell said.

“My favorite part was finding out how fast you can make a family within your community and all the people that you’re with. It’s really cool to be able to have that kind of connection with somebody as a friend that fast,” Dring said.

Boys State is sponsored by the American Legion, a veterans organization.

“My favorite moment was the closing ceremonies when there were a bunch of vets up front, and they were singing a bunch of patriotic songs. We were singing along, and it was super emotional because the veterans were all holding hands. It was awesome,” Connell said.

While Boys State is only for boys, there is an opportunity for girls to get involved.

“There’s Boys State and Girls State, both of them. They’re both sponsored by the American Legion, and the primary purpose is to try to get young people interested in government and be good citizens,” Walker said.

It does cost money to participate, but there’s money available for people who want to go.

“Sometimes people don’t take advantage of it because they think they can’t afford it, but really somebody would help them,” Walker said.

Boys State is not some new program. It’s been around for a while and has a tradition.

“What’s really interesting is a lot of politicians, a lot of people in Washington today, they went to Boys State. Bill Clinton, one of his famous pictures, he’s meeting President Kennedy as a 17-year old kid from Arkansas,” Walker said.

No matter what exactly went on at Boys State, it’s an experience neither Dring nor Connell will forget about.

“I would definitely recommend the experience because there’s nothing to lose. Whether you’re interested or not, it might spark your interest. If it doesn’t you’ll still have fun,” Connell said.