Five Mundelein High School students were selected to attend American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State. Boys State candidates include senior John Chambers and juniors Ronan Robles and Matthew Willis. Girls State attendees are juniors Alicia Brak and Leila Moon. Both programs will be held in June at Eastern Illinois University.
Boys and Girls State provides an immersive experience in the democratic process. Students run for elected positions at the local, regional and state levels during a mock legislative session. Candidates meet peers with strong interests in politics and craft slates that promise improvements for our democracy. By portraying government representatives, students grow in their understanding of the complexities of politics.
“My motivation to participate comes from my interest in what policy-making actually looks like,” junior Leila Moon said. “Congress is often portrayed as a dramatic ideological battleground, and I would like to see to what extent ideology affects the process.”
Attendees gain opportunities for personal development, as Ronan Robles commented, “I hope it will enhance my leadership skills.”
While students have engaged in an academic understanding of legislation in class, Boys and Girls State is a trial ground for engaging in the political process. Matthew Willis plans to put this new knowledge to the test by addressing voting participation.
“Voting rights and sustainability are two issues that are important to me, so if I present any legislation it would involve one of those two issues,” Willis said. “The United States has the lowest voter turnout of any democracy in the world, so creating incentives is a change I’d like to make.”
A topic that Alicia Brak hopes to find support for is fixing the educational gap in understanding budgeting, “I would like to promote legislation that supports financial literacy.”
The Boys and Girls State programs were established in 1935 to help students gain a thorough understanding of the functions of government. Illinois was the first state to offer Boys State.
Doing business as the mythical 51st state, students will join hundreds of representatives from across Illinois in this annual summer experience. In addition to politically-related activities, there are social and sports events and guest speakers including state and national political figures.
Attendance at these events can lead to participation in Boys and Girls Nation in Washington, DC. which invites two “senators” from each state to attend a mock Congress in our nation’s capital and often includes an in-person Rose Garden greeting from the U.S. President. It can also lead to scholarship opportunities.
The Mundelein American Legion Post 867 sponsors and provides all funding for the male students to attend American Legion Boys State. Mundelein Community Bank and Libertyville-based Wm. Meyer & Sons provide funding for the MHS female participants in American Legion Auxiliary Girls State. Girls State is sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 867 of Mundelein, which also sponsors the Oratorical Contest.