by Mia Leone
WMHS BullsEye Staff
What is Girls’ and Boys’ State? Picture Stonehill College in June; the campus is a blur of blue-, white-, and yellow-clad high school junior boys and girls from all parts of Massachusetts. Boys are checking out girls and vice versa while adutls scurry to organize the biggest event of the year. This is what the first day of Girls’ and Boys’ State looks like. By the end of only one week, all these girls and boys will become one tight knit group of close friends.
Girls’ and Boys’ State is run by the American Legion and is for juniors to participate in at the end of the year to learn more on state and local government policies. Every state has its own version of the program, but they are of the same nature. For example, this version of the program has both boys and girls residing on the same campus. The boys and girls are split up, respectively, into their own “towns.” These are the people you are surrounded by for the next week and you do not know anyone – this is the point. After becoming acquainted with one another, each town holds elections for mayor and such positions until all are filled; every position has its duties and even restrictions.
For example, the Mayor of a city at Girls’ State whose name was Freedom, was senior Amber Army from a tiny town in Western Massachusetts. She had to get the agenda from the director of Girls’ State for the town every day and had quite a lot of paper work to do for her town.
“I was sort of shocked when I got elected Mayor and honored. I love the girls in Freedom and was so happy to be their Mayor! Even though there was a lot of paper work and stuff to do I’m so happy I got elected,” said Army.
Also, like in real life, your town has some sort of massive problem to deal with and your town needs to make decisions according to a booklet you are provided with. You must agree upon and discuss all decisions with the members of your town. This is the local government aspect of the program.
But, Girls’ and Boys’ State covers state government as well. After town elections are covered, there are senate and house of representative elections. Two senate and four house seats are up for grabs for your town to be represented when discussing bills when in session.
Then comes the election everyone has waited for: party platform elections. Party platform refers to what “party” you belong to and also the reason for the blue and yellow shirts. They are not quite like the Democratic or Republican parties in idea but they work on the same premise of a two party system. Each party meets and discusses their ideas on what their platform, or view point, is. In addition, a Party Leader is elected; they are the hype man or woman for their party and also control party meetings. Then there are elections for party nominations for state offices, such as governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, and so on. After these elections are through, each nomination for the party goes from town to town spending time, and of course, campaigning. Senior Christina O’Brien got the bid Treasurer for her party.
“I was really excited when I won my party for Treasurer and even though I lost the election overall, I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” commented O’Brien.
These nominees do everything from answering tough questions to Woping, a popular dance craze in Western Massachusetts and urban Georgia. They do whatever they can to secure your vote because at the end of the week and when all speeches are done, voting begins. Girls’ and Boys’ State isn’t all about politics though, it’s about meeting kids all across the state and having fun, too.
Although we have a lot of work to get done in a week, there is some time to let your hair down. There is a dance towards the end of the week in the Stonehill rec center. It’s a lot like homecoming; everyone looks amazing for the first five minutes then it’s a total sweat fest. Senior Molly Kupris can attest to the condition of the dancers by the end of the night.
“The majority of us were sweaty, smelly, and extremely tired but it was a good time,” said Kupris
Senior Mike Paladino commented on the dancing styles that night of the 22 Woburnites.
“The kids from Woburn were classy as always…” said Paladino with a wink.
On the subject of Woburn, there were more Woburn kids at this program than any other town. We were all fortunate enough to have our entire trip covered by SBLI Banks, unlike the majority of participants of other towns. SBLI isn’t associated with the American Legion at all but it has become a sort of tradition for them to fund the kids of Woburn High fortunate enough to be chosen to go to either Girls’ or Boys’ State. So a big shout out to SBLI!
Even though funding is not a problem for the Woburn group of kids for Girls’ and Boys’ State, getting into this program is a treacherous process. So just how does a junior girl or boy be eligible for Girls’ and Boys’ State 2013? There will be an announcement during the year requesting that anyone interested in the program may sign up in the office. When you hear this, it is go time. Dash on down to the office as quick as you can, sign your name, and hope there aren’t a lot of people who sign up. You will fill out an application and write an essay on the prompt they give you, and then pray you are chosen for this program.
Senior April Hunt described, “I was so nervous to see if I was picked to go to Girls’ State. So many people signed up and I really wanted to go, unlike other people who just signed up to put this program on their résumé or skip school.”
A ton of people sign up, or at least girls that is, and Woburn can only send so many. Only sign up if you are serious about the program and not just trying to get out of a week of school because you WILL NOT GET OUT OF FINALS. DON’T EVEN TRY IT. Also, do not just sign up to add another thing to your résumé for college. You could potentially be taking away a spot from someone who is genuinely interested in the program.
Girls’ and Boys’ State offers a wonderful opportunity for juniors. You do not need prior knowledge of politics or government procedure of any kind to participate. The instructors and counselors are knowledgeable and friendly; they would love to help you understand anything and everything to the best of their ability.
What’s more is that you’re on a beautiful college campus for an entire week and get to make so many great friendships. This program not only teaches you about the workings of government, but also about who you are as a person. It takes a lot of guts to speak in front of any sort of crowd, whether it is 20 or 200. For that one week, push yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t hold anything back. You never know, maybe you’ll discover your inner calling is running for office for later on in life.
Girls’ and Boys’ State is all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone; you will never lose, even if you don’t win, as long as you try.