It’s not just politics at Boys State

MARSHALL – All week long, the American Legion Boys State participants have been exposed to new and exciting opportunities and experiences at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, and amidst its strong tradition lies the hope that the unique program will continue having a positive impact on the lives of each young man even after returning home.

“There’s tons of new opportunities,” said Troy Timmerman, Marshall High School senior-to-be. “I’ve ran for a ton of different positions. I had the opportunity to see how the state Senate works, how the county government and city government works. I don’t know if I could get that anywhere else.”

When he arrived at Boys State Sunday afternoon, Timmerman was assigned to the city of Rochester and quickly made his way onto the city council and other positions.

“I was an alternate for the state party convention,” he said. “I was also working as a lobby group for environmental issues. I wrote a bill actually, to try and get rid of invasive species like the zebra mussel. That was pretty awesome. We just finished it up and we’re going to try and submit it (Friday) to the House and Senate.”

Timmerman, a trumpet player, has also enjoyed taking part in the 50-member Boys State band that will perform at the concert tonight.

“We’re doing really well,” Timmerman said. We’ve only had a couple of practices, so considering we have a lot of songs, we’re playing them pretty well. We’re playing a lot of patriotic songs, like some of the military songs and the national anthem.”

Westbrook-Walnut Grove student Steven Yang is also involved in the band, which is directed by John Ginocchio.

“They’re doing a great job,” Ginocchio said.

Approximately 50 Boys Staters, including Lakeview student Zachery Doose, are also part of the Boys State choir, under the direction of Brad Brandt.

“We’re doing a variety of songs,” Brandt said. “My favorite, along with many of the kids, is called ‘Tell My Father.’ It’s a song about a son writing a letter to his father who has died. We’re also doing a Czechoslovakian song called ‘Stodola Pumpa.'”

More than a dozen young men are part of the Boys State drum line. It’s the largest group he’s had, said Marty Seifert, who has directed the drum line six of the last seven years.

“I’ve helped out for 15 years, but we’ve only had drum line since we’ve been at SMSU. They’ve been really good about letting us use the equipment and the room. St. John’s wouldn’t let us when we were there. So this has been nice.”

Seifert, who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for 14 years, still makes it a priority to help out at Boys State every year despite his extremely busy schedule. As the foundation director at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, he’s busy.

“I’m in charge of building the cancer center right now,” he said. “But I’m happy to help. I’ve helped every year, even the year I ran for governor. Volunteerism is a big part of what I do.”

The downside of keeping a complex schedule is that drum line practice needs to be at 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. But it seems to work out just fine.

“Some of the things I volunteered with I’ve kind of let go by the wayside with the cancer center taking so much time, morning, noon and night, but this is one program I said I still want to hang in there and help with,” Seifert said. “It’s exciting. And there seems to be enough counselors during the day to handle things.”

Members of the drum line, which includes Marshall student Thomas Wyatt-Yerka, were weaving through the halls on campus Thursday, practicing for the concert. They’ll also be giving a final wake-up call to Boys Staters early this morning.

“We usually go around campus and we test things out in the tunnel,” Seifert said. “The governors and flag bearers will be in front of us (today for the march from SMSU to Marshall High School). We’ll march to two songs and then play four at the concert.”

Along with Jarrad Bowers of Marshall, Wyatt-Yerka is also involved with the “State of the Boys” newspaper.

“I’m one of the three editors for the Boys State newspaper,” Wyatt-Yerka said. “It’s went pretty well so far despite the fact that I have to wake up and go in at about 6:15 a.m. I don’t have to, but I’ve been going in to see if anybody needs help with anything.”

Wyatt-Yerka said he has also been helping cover some news stories that have not been turned in.

“Especially being an editor, I”m gaining lots of experience in leadership and also brushing up on my grammar skills. I’ve taken upper level writing courses at my high school, so that’s helped. English and writing are some of the subjects I enjoy the most. I’ve been in speech for three years, too, so that has definitely helped, too,” he said.

While Boys Staters learn a great deal about government and patriotism while attending Boys State, Seifert acknowledged that not all of them will go on to have careers as politicians, but that the program can still have a positive impact on their lives.

“They don’t have to be politician,” he said. “There’s athletic opportunities, music opportunities, speech opportunities and other leadership opportunities. There are kids who are totally non-political, and they come here and run for office because they think it’s a great opportunity to do so.”

Seifert noted that they young men also had the chance to hear from remarkable speakers throughout the entire week.

Since starting as a guest speaker 15 years ago, Seifert has come to appreciate the transformation that takes place with the Boys Staters every year.

“I started out talking about how bills become law and that kind of thing,” he said. “The boys certainly have a lot of learning opportunities here. It’s just great to see the young people mature.”

Seifert often keeps tabs on some of the past Boys Staters and is proud of what many of them have gone on to accomplish.

“Just in the years I’ve been here, I’ve seen guys, who within five or 10 years, are starting their own companies,” Seifert said. “There’s a 28-year-old guy who has a European company, and he still stays in touch with me. So it’s really humbling to work with top-notch people who are moving forward in life and really becoming success stories.”

The Boys Staters will begin a march from SMSU to MHS at 6:20 p.m. today, followed by a band, choir and drum line concert at 6:45 p.m. at the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts. The concert is free and open to the public and will feature three speakers after the musical selections.