Boys State is in session

MARSHALL – Respect is one of the many virtues young men from across the state of Minnesota are learning and applying while attending the 2013 American Legion Boys State this week at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

From the time more than 350 high school seniors-to-be stepped foot on campus Sunday afternoon, they became part of a unique family, one that has had a hand in shaping future leaders in Minnesota for 65 years. Upon registration, each Boys State participant was assigned to one of 12 mock cities, where new friendships began to develop.

“It’s been really fun meeting new people and learning about government so far,” said New Ulm resident Bryan Dewanz, who was assigned to the city of Anoka for the week. “I’ve learned about parliamentary procedure and how a bill gets put into the different systems, the people it goes through. There’s a lot I didn’t know.”

Dewanz is looking forward to the rest of the week.

“I’m excited to vote for the state government and campaigning for different things,” he said.

The Boys State program was first organized in 1935 by Illinois Legionnaires Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card. In 1949, Minnesota began offering the program, which provides a hands-on opportunity to learn about government, patriotism and citizenship as the young men participate in city, county and state government activities.

The boys staters assembled by cities for calisthenics at 7 a.m. Monday, followed by breakfast and an address from Hank Shea, professor at the University of St. Thomas. Volunteer instructors then rotated to different locations, sharing information on political party organization (David Way, Neil Kruse and Tom Johnson), city and county government (Drew Hood) and the legislative process (Andy Post and Mary Seifert).

“It’s going pretty good,” said Minneota senior-to-be Josh Bot, who was assigned to the city of Minneapolis. “I’m learning a lot. It’s really fun. We’ve learned how to run the proper parliamentary procedures and a lot about how our government works so far. We’re going to learn more.

“We’re still in the early stages, so it’ll be interesting to see how it develops as time goes on.”

After lunch and an executive branch address by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Anoka Voiture 390 led a flag retirement ceremony outside.

“Bud (Redepenning) asked if he could get double the pay this year,” Boys State Director Mike Bredeck said. “Since all of us volunteer, I said, ‘sure,'”

Redepenning, who, at 86-years-old, served as Anoka Voiture aumonier (chaplain), then addressed the large gathering of young men who were all dressed in their new Boys State T-shirts.

“Actually, all of us are getting paid by you attending,” he said. “Thank you for coming. It’s a labor of love for us. We are true volunteers.”

Led by Bob Locker, the men demonstrated the proper folds for the U.S. flag, beginning with the first fold, which symbolizes life, and the 12th fold, which for the Christian citizen, symbolizes eternity.

“I’m the Chef deGare,” Locker said. “Basically, that means I’m the French-version of a Legion Commander.”

Locker and the other dedicated men then revealed the honorable and respectable way to retire a flag. They did so in honor of Buster Skallerud and Mike Flor, long-time Boys State volunteers who died recently.

“It was very touching to see a symbolic piece of our nation be honored in that way,” Bot said. “It’s something that most people don’t know about, with the proper flag etiquette and everything. It was nice to learn so we know that for the future.”

After the ceremony, Redepenning reported that Anoka Voiture 390 properly disposes of thousands of unserviceable flags each summer.

“We take care of about eight to 10 trailer loads full every year,” he said. “There are probably 500 to 600 flags in each trailer.”

The flag retirement crew will give another demonstration today. This time, the ceremony will be held for the young women attending the Minnesota Girls State program.

After athletics, band, drum line and choir practices, the boys had dinner and then held city elections.

“The boys filed for city offices (Monday morning),” counselor Neil Kruse said. “They vote and then find out (Monday night).”

A number of area attendees filed for city office positions, including Marshall students Thomas Wyatt-Yerka, who is one of six who filed for the position of mayor of Minneapolis, and Drew Tykwinski, who is one of seven to seek the position of mayor of Winona. Bot is among 10 others who filed for the five city councilor positions.

“I filed for councilman,” Bot said. “The vote is (Monday night), so hopefully that goes well.”

Joey Hulsizer (Marshall High School) and Abraham Faugstad (E.C.H.O. Charter student) filed for Anoka city council positions, as did Michael Alness (Lakeview High School) for the city of Hibbing and Jordan Bothun (Dawson-Boyd) for the city of Moorhead.

Marshall students Troy Timmerman (city of Rochester) and Danny West (city of St. Peter) also filed for city council seats. Derek Christians, a Red Rock Central student, filed for the position of city treasurer for St. Paul.

Boys State office guru Matt Verkuilen said that some of the boys staters take a while to build up enough confidence to file for office. The transformation during the week is something he looks forward to each year.

“They’re still getting their feet wet,” Verkuilen said. “There are still a lot of diamonds in the rough. When they start helping with campaigns, a fire often gets lit. I think you’ll see a big difference by (Tuesday morning) already. It’s pretty profound.”