Boys help run 51st state; Legion-sponsored students learn, practice life skillsThree River Falls boys -- Sam Anderson, Cole Love and Trevor Stokes -- attended an annual, eight-day youth-leadership session called Boys Badger State, held in Ripon June 9-16 and sponsored by the American Legion.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Three River Falls boys -- Sam Anderson, Cole Love and Trevor Stokes -- attended an annual, eight-day youth-leadership session called Boys Badger State, held in Ripon June 9-16 and sponsored by the American Legion.
BBS aims to teach boys good citizenship and gives them a peer-based venue for practicing leadership skills.
The three met the criteria of being incoming high school seniors in the top third of their class.
They each wrote an essay about why they wanted to go to BBS.
The program’s State Director Teddy Duckworth explained it this way: “BBS is an eight-day youth leadership program designed to educate students in the duties, privileges, rights, and responsibilities of American citizenship. The program has been developed on the fundamental principle that youth learn best by actively participating in the process. Initially separated into cities and counties, these future leaders will campaign for a variety of offices and establish their own city, county and state government.”
The boys compared notes with many of the 883 participants and learned each place has a different process.
Some had to take long tests and meet other rigorous criteria -- some secured a trip simply by expressing interest in going.
Asked how they heard about the opportunity, Love said his mother encouraged him to go – she’s a teacher who’d had a student attend BBS. Stokes said his grandfather, Jim Purnick, is a Legion member, plus the boy helps at the Legion often. Anderson said his dad, Mark, and uncle, Neal Anderson, who’s a Legion member, encouraged him to go.
Once there, the boys say they saw each other maybe twice or three times. They mostly joined their hypothetical cities within nine counties, most of which were named after former governors and legislators.
Stokes ended up in the city of Blaine and county of Cameron, “I was the county delegate,” he said.
At the county level, he helped nominate people for office and organize a political platform for the candidates.
Love served as one of two assemblymen for Salomon in the county of Mitchell. He said his group worked on passing laws to make next year’s BBS better, including a bigger order of chocolate milk.
Anderson said he went with the city of Thompson in Howe County, where he served as a delegate for political parties and campaign organizers. He also ran for his county’s registrar of deeds office, in which he learned a lot about how those officials handle vital records.
Boys attending BBS can go to any number of hour-long classes on law, peace officer, leadership, public speaking, parliamentary procedure, lobbying and campaign strategy and others. Students could also sign up for different sports teams, band and choir, or to write for the BBS newspaper. The three participants from River Falls also attended an ethics session.
Anderson, Love and Stokes said the big group of boys congregated each night for meals and several times to hear speakers that included Governor Scott Walker, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, state Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and several others. The boys said the speakers were all good.
Anderson and Stokes said they most enjoyed the presentation given by Charles Wiley, a WWII veteran and journalist who covered the Vietnam War. The boys said he talked about what it meant to be a good, knowledgeable citizen, as well the different types of truth.
Love agrees Wiley’s talk was good but said he liked best the speaker who talked about lobbying. That and classes on lobbying, which taught its rules and demonstrated how business relates to law.
All the boys also spoke highly of the message delivered by Fred Burns, an Ellsworth man who spoke about motivation and thinking toward the future, living consciously and good leadership, as well as how to listen well.
Asked about what was the most fun and their overall impression(s) of BBS, Anderson responded, “I thought the funnest thing was the sports teams,” for example volleyball and Frisbee golf.
He also liked meeting all the new people and will keep up with them through a Facebook page.
Cole agrees the people were interesting but says, “My favorite part was the different classes they offer like parliamentary procedure.”
He learned how when it wasn’t clear who voted what way, someone can call out “division” and prompt a person-by-person vote using raised hands.
Stokes also enjoyed meeting people and learning new things -- he most enjoyed a public speaking class he attended. He participates in an elective Forensics class at RFHS focusing on public speaking and said it was interesting to hear about other people’s experiences.
Asked how the BBS session may help them in the future, the boys report that the session generally helped them gain confidence and become more outgoing.
They appreciated the candor of counselors who didn’t sugar coat their answers and everyone’s efforts to make them all feel comfortable and at home.
The three locals said different groups pulled pranks like hiding game tables. The cities held a dance contest that revealed a nearly professional break dancer, who even had backup dancers.
They had a track champion among them, an avid snowmobiler and other interesting folks.
They tell of one boy who was very quiet and reserved through the week but then busted out an intense and passionate speech toward the end.
Demerits for certain room-cleanliness violations could be earned by the groups, which also became competitive because the group with the fewest demerits got to line up for meals first.
The students also watched a few movies, chunked water balloons at each other, and played a game of human Jenga.
Member of the local American Legion -- the Fletcher-Pechacek Post 121 -- Gerry Matteson explained how BBS is one of many programs the Legion sponsors.
He said with all attendees getting a volume discount, the trip for all three boys cost $705 including meals, lodging and travel.
Matteson, a Ph.D., former professor, registered parliamentarian and 30-year veteran of the Army National Guard, began coordinating BBS for the local Legion three or four years ago.
He said the session happens in the same place each year and reveals that he himself is a BBS alumni: “The fact is I attended Badger Boys State back in 1953. I remember it was quite an experience.”
Learn more about BBS at its web site: www.badgerboysstate.com.