Government of the kids, by the kids, for the kids
Some encouraged by experience; others dissuaded from politics
Marion High School students Tim Costello, Brandon Meierhoff, Dane Purkeypile, and Derek Stuchlik got practical lessons in government by participating in a weeklong mock government at Boys State, June 7 through 11 on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan.
Each year, two representatives from each Boys State event go on to participate in Boys Nation, a national mock government experience held in Washington, D.C.
For some participants it is the beginning of a lifelong interest in government or a political career. For others, it is a glimpse into the difficult and sometimes flawed workings of a system they’d rather observe from a distance.
Purkeypile held a leadership position in the state legislature. He said he liked influencing what topics were considered.
Some of the legislators really got into their roles, he said.
“It kind of plays with your head, playing a role,” Purkeypile said. “It felt like everything there was real and everything outside was fake.”
Boys State reaffirmed Purkeypile’s belief that politics isn’t for him. He wouldn’t even think of running for public office.
“Doing it makes me not want to do it even more,” he said.
However, the experience also gave Purkeypile some idea of the uphill battle some politicians face.
“The biggest thing it taught me is that getting a big group of people to think the same without something big happening is too hard. Being a politician really isn’t that easy.”
Meierhoff said he didn’t think about local government before, but Boys State sparked his interest.
He learned about government in his role as a city council member in a farming community ravaged by drought and unemployment.
Costello assumed the role of a district judge, hearing real court cases from the past and making sentencing determinations.
“I’ve given some thought to going into law, especially after that experience,” Costello said.
He said he learned a lot about the way state government operates, including how power and responsibility are divided.
Stuchlik went in with high expectations.
“I had heard a lot of good things about it,” he said.
Stuchlik took the role of a city council member. The big decisions he faced involved building and maintaining infrastructure.
“It sure taught me what is involved in government,” he said.
Cady is a mayor at Girls State
Donna Cady participated in Girls State from June 6 through 11 on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. She was elected mayor of a fictional town. Her primary responsibility was leading meetings.
“I had an idea how government works from class, but now I actually understand how it works and what’s behind it,” she said.
In addition to conducting mock government exercises, participants discussed a variety of issues that were assigned by the organization, including the Gulf oil spill, foster homes, seat belt laws, immigration, and gays in the military.
“I don’t see myself having a future career in politics, but I wanted to see how it all works,” Cady said.