Five St. James High seniors to be were selected to participate in the recently held American Legion Boys State and the American Legion Girls State.
Participants from St. James were Anna Haler and Shania Hansen for the girls and Simon Beck, Derrick Shupe and Justin Stevens for the boys.
Approximately 305 boys and girls from across Minnesota attended the respective events. The boys met at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall and the girls met at Bethel College in St. Paul and according to Anna Haler, had the unique advantage of conducting their business at the State Capital.
According to the Legions's website, "The American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State are the premier programs for teaching how government works while developing leadership skills and an appreciation for your rights as a citizen."
Participants in the program ran for office, practiced public speaking, created and enforced laws and actively participated in all phases of creating and running a working government.
Haler, Shupe and Beck sat down with me and discussed their experiences at the events which intend to give future leaders of Minnesota a better understanding of how government is suppose to work.
Derrick was elected Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Simon ran for the Chief Justice position of the Supreme Court, but didn't win that election.
Anna delivered an opening statement of the defense of a person accused of murder. The defendant was found not guilty.
The program breaks the boys and girls up into two political parties with the kids being randomly selected for the party. There were towns, counties, and state organizations.
The state government had the four executive positions of Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. There was one Chief Justice and two Associate Justices of the State Supreme Court.
Derrick said the way the parties were formed caused people to have to compromise because there were conservative and liberal oriented students in each party. To move legislation forward, compromises had to be made.
Simon said, "I think the legislature worked really well." Derrick said there were individuals who wanted some more radical legislation, but overall he said. "It was a process that pushed bills towards the middle."
Anna said her legal defense activities were conducted at the Minnesota Supreme Court, "We did mock trials in there." The legislative activities were conducted in the Minnesota House and Senate Chambers.
Anna said the experience helped her, "Learn more about the government and how it works."
Derrick said, "I learned the political system as it stands is broken." That opinion was shaped by how people at the convention acted to get elected.
Anna said she learned that she likes working with people. Simon summed his time at Boys State by saying, "I thought it was a great experience."