Boys State: Still ‘An amazing experience’
Learning how various levels of government are run is paramount in order to understand the influence it has on our daily life.
The three Minneota students who recently returned from participating in the 69th annual Boys State from June 10-16 at St. John’s University in Collegeville can now attest to that.
Trevor Belaen, Ryan Vlaminck and Nate Ludwikowski, all who will be seniors this fall, admittedly gained a new perspective on the inner workings of city, county and state government.
“It was an amazing experience where you make lots of friends and get to know a lot of different people and get a lot of different views,” said Belaen, who was sponsored by Minneota American Legion Post 199.
“I would recommend it to anyone who may be interested in government or just learning more about government.”
Vlaminck and Ludwikowski were each sponsored by Taunton American Legion Post 604. There were approximately 300 seniors-to-be attending Boys State.
They were broken down into groups of 30 and placed in 10 different mock cities that were named after real Minnesota cities.
The boys were then educated about how city government works, while also being able to run for various city offices. No one from Minneota showed interest in participating in Girls State at Bethel University.
The Minneota Legion Auxiliary instead sponsored Amanda Mathiason of Willmar.
After learning about city government, the boys in the 10 cities were then grouped into two counties in order to learn about government from a county perspective.
Finally, all the cities were placed into a state and divided evenly into two political parties, the federalists and nationalists, in order to determine who to choose to run for state positions. During the week, the boys were also able to bond together while participating in a variety of activities.
“We had bonfires, games, band, choir, recreational activities and could work for a newspaper,” said Ludwikowski.
“I played beach volleyball and helped write multiple bills and got a few of those passed.”
“I played volleyball and we got second place in the tournament at the end of the week,” said Belaen.
“I also was able to go swimming for a few hours in the pool at the college. I also participated in band that parents and others could come and listen to.”
“I participated for the Moorhead softball team which won the championship,” Vlaminck said.
“I also wrote a newspaper article on Simeon Toronto, who was one of the speakers.”
There were several speakers on hand, including Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt, retired Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson, a mayor from a northern Minnesota city, a law enforcement officer, and a panel of ROTC and military recruiters.
“I think the thing that stuck with me was (Daudt) saying ‘I don’t quite know how I got here. I never even planned to make it this far, but here I am anyway’ because he was really trying to show that anyone can run for a government office and win if they put in the effort.”
“(Daudt) gave us an inside look at what actually happens between the Republican and Democratic parties in Minnesota,” Vlaminck noted.
“He was a great inspirational speaker and was applauded with a standing ovation.”
The boys all stayed in dorm rooms at St. John’s with others that were assigned to the same city. They were served in the college food court with a similar breakfast each day, but different meal choices for lunch and supper.
“They had three lines, each with a different kind of food,” said Belaen.
“One night it was a hamburger and fries, another was rice and pork, and the final line was spaghetti and breadsticks.”
“We were served college cafeteria food that wasn’t bad,” said Ludwikowski.
“You could choose from a wide range of food.”
Belaen is the son of Deb and the late Donny Belaen and lives in rural Minneota.
He ran for and was elected city treasurer in his mock city of St. Paul.
“The biggest thing I learned about city government is that it is incredibly easy to be able to run and make changes in an entire city,” he said.
The only thing that surprised me is that larger cities still do election like small towns where anyone can run and win an official position.”
He was then placed in Kittson County with six other mock cities. He ran for county sheriff but lost by a single vote.
“The simplicity of county government really surprised me and once again showed just how easy and simple it is to run for a county position and to be able to change the county for the better.” Belaen did not choose to run for a state office.
“The thing that stuck with me on the state level was how things can get done much faster if people work together for the greater good,” he said.
Belaen said one of the things most memorable to him during his time spent at Boys State was on Flag Day when they were able to witness the retiring of a flag by members of the American Legion.
“This impressed me to a large degree because it really showed that we owe all the experiences we gained over the week to the flag,” Belaen said, “and to the men and women who fought and died to protect the meaning behind it, and to give us our freedom.”
“It made a huge impact on me because it helped me to see what those men and women sacrificed themselves for was we were actively creating a mock government similar to the one that they had upheld.”
Vlaminck is the son of Dawn and Mike Vlaminck of rural Ghent. He ran and was elected to the city council in the mock city of Moorhead City Council.
“I learned that local government is more important than most people realize,” he said.
“It surprised me that it was very difficult to find a solution to city problems where everyone was satisfied with the end result.”
His mock city was then placed in Crow Wing County with four other mock cities.
There, Vlaminck ran for a county board position, but he was not elected.
“The county government was a great experience because you had to keep in mind the effects a decision would have on both cities,” he said.
At state, Vlaminck elected not to run for an office, but was a delegate that voted for the state positions.
“I learned how to write and propose bills to the House and Senate,” he told. “It surprised me how difficult it is to pass bills through the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority.”
Vlaminck did not hesitate when asked if he would recommend Boys State to someone that might be interested next year.
“I would definitely recommend Boys State,” he said.
“It’s a great way to teach you how the government actually works, while also having fun.” “It lets you see what it’s like for the people that are in office right now. You also get to make friends with people from all over Minnesota. Boys State also teaches you the importance of what our proud nation stands for, along with the importance of the respect of our flag.”
Ludwikowski is the son of Michael and Colleen Ludwikowski of Minneota. He ran for the mock position of Hibbing City Clerk and was elected.
“I learned that it’s a lot of work to get anything done,” he said. “Parliamentary procedure takes forever and has a lot of work to go along with it. But nothing really surprised me.”
The boys representing Hibbing, including Ludwikowski, were also placed in Crow Wing County. “I was a time keep to make sure we stayed on schedule,” he noted.
“County government was similar to city government; just bigger.”
Ludwikowski also elected not to run for state office.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “It was really fun after the classroom part was over and you got to meet a lot of really cool guys.”