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The American Legion hosts an annual program to shape political minds of high-school age boys around New Mexico. Three Los Alamos High School students joined the Boys State program and learned the ins and outs of state and local government.
Boys State is a role-playing experience for 17-year-old boys, finished with their junior year of high school. Daniel Ahrens, Jeremy Goetee and Esteban Summers represented Los Alamos High School during the series of events from May 25 to 31 at Eastern New Mexico University.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Vernon Kerr, one of the American Legion government officials who guided the boys with their endeavors.
More than 100 boys from across the state attended and completed the total immersion in the political parties, campaigns and election of city, county and state officials. Those chosen to be party leaders had to lead their party members through the issues, platform and recruitment of candidates.
“The program mimics actual elections and political experiences,” Kerr said. “We tell them what the offices do and just let them go. We guide them, but we don’t tell them what to do.”
City and county officials were put to work creating a budget, passing ordinances and selecting appointed officials, such as county manager, city attorney and many more political positions.
All branches of government are covered.
In the state level the Great Debate between gubernatorial candidates contained more than 100 questions from the audience.
Daniel Ahrens, was elected as the runner up for Boys Nation and received a silver medal. He also earned a $1,000 Samsung Scholarship.
“Communicating ideas and knowing who you are trying to reach is very important in politics,” Ahrens said. He started on the city council and was promoted to the governor’s secretary of finance.
“I really enjoyed learning the knowledge of government and the responsibilities and what it is like to act in a political sphere,” he said.
“The Q and A was the most intimidating for me,” White Rock resident Esteban Summers said. “Politics is a lot tougher than people think. Compromise can be tough if you clash with personal ideas.”
Summers held the position of city attorney, and then moved up to speaker of the house. He would like to pursue a political science degree and continue with a career in government.
Both boys said they learned a lot about the social aspects of government.
Ahrens wants to be involved in politics on a state or local level. “It is important to know the areas where you can affect real change and how the world works,” he said.
Goetee was elected county assessor.
In addition to the honors each participant earned three college credit hours from Eastern New Mexico University, which is fully transferable to the college of their choice. All three LAHS students will begin their senior year in the fall.
Some famous names who attended this program in the past are former President Bill Clinton and former N.M. Governor Toney Anaya. “The boys will never forget this experience,” Kerr said.