Back in June, six members of the ORRHS Class of 2018 traveled to Stonehill College for a week-long, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. These students had been selected to participate in Boys and Girls State, an annual event that aims at introducing high school students to the roles of local, county, and state government in the United States. Jacob Asiaf, Nicholas Claudio, Evan Costa and Sam Pasquill were invited to Boys State, launched in 1935, while Ainslee Bangs and Rachel Demmer attended Girls State, a parallel program started in 1937.
Both programs had a balanced schedule between lectures surrounding governmental themes (i.e., law, economics, politics, and foreign affairs) and activities involving other members of the camp. For instance, students found themselves participating in a mock Senate where they were tasked with forming political parties, nominating candidates, holding elections, and passing bills.
“One of the classes I got to take was called ‘Freakenomics.’ It was about microeconomics and I found it really interesting,” said Bangs.
“I was most interested in government and local politics, but also in foreign affairs, especially with Russia,” Costa said. “I ended up taking a ‘General Education on Government’ and a mini-course on ‘Russia and the Recent U.S. Election.’”
One of the greatest takeaways that the invited students shared in their experiences was the chance to hear new and controversial points of view. Demmer described one of these instances.
“There was one bill Girls State was trying to pass on legalizing prostitution, and from the beginning I was firm on voting ‘no.’ Why the heck would someone want to legalize prostitution? It was a foreign idea to me. But then I listened to everyone around me and heard their thoughts of, ‘well, if you legalize prostitution, then it’s easier for women to step up and get help or go to the doctors if something goes bad.’ There were so many different things I had never thought of, but everyone else had and I totally value all of that.”
The program also had an individual impact on the participants, even if their paths won’t lead them directly into a position in public office.
“This experience … has taught me of the extreme importance of voting and being active in every election, not just on the national level but local as well,” Costa commented. “As for a career in politics, I politely decline, it just isn’t for me. I still was able to take away an understanding of how government is supposed to work and to what my individual importance is in the American political system.”
“I found out that I will most likely never do anything with politics in my life because I didn’t have the passion for government like other girls around me did,” Demmer concurred. “Some of these girls were so passionate and driven in whatever they believed in, whether it was women’s rights or fighting for the death penalty, and the way they spoke about these ideas totally changed my opinion on them … It was without a doubt worth attending.”
By Jo Caynon