By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
HELENA – Last month, six Lone Peak High School students traveled to Montana’s capital city of Helena for American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.
The six delegates participated in a variety of activities in June to learn about all levels of government. Activities included elections, city and county meetings, legislative sessions and other events meant to engage students in the governmental process.
This was the sixth year LPHS students attended the weeklong event, the girls from June 13-19 and the boys from June 6-11 at Carroll College in Helena. Each year, middle school and high school social studies teacher Tony Coppola chooses students based on classroom performance, interest in political science and government, and aptitude for leadership.
Coppola explained that once he picks the students, American Legion Post 99 of Big Sky pays the tuition for them to attend each year.
“The American Legion Boys and Girls State programs are an excellent opportunity for LPHS students to expand upon their understanding of the political and government systems,” said Coppola, adding his appreciation to Post 99 for supporting the program. “The weeklong experiential learning experience allows them to meet new peers, which exposes them to new and different perspectives. They also sit in on speeches and meet current Montana governmental leaders.”
Participants included Luke Kirchmayr, John Chadwell and Tony Brester for the LPHS boys, and Sophia Cone, Samantha Suazo and Carly Wilson for the girls.
The participants wrote responses to EBS in emails describing their experiences.
Wilson described her experience at state and the friendships she made.
“Aside from learning the legislative process of Montana, participating in mock trials, or winning an elected role, the greatest takeaway from my time at Girls State was how powerful young teenage women can be,” Wilson said.
“I came across many girls my age who have already done so much for their communities and it inspired me. I also learned how easily girls from ranches in rural Montana and girls from urban “cities” like Kalispell can truly come together and build friendships despite their differences.”
Suazo echoed Wilson in pointing out the power of young women.
“It is inspiring to me to be able to share and collaborate with other females,” she said. “When each one of us brings a quality to the table, we make an incredible team. I also believe it is essential to have conversations about politics, issues taking place in our state and our rights as citizens.”
On the boy’s side, Chadwell also found friends while learning at the State event.
“Boys State was truly an amazing experience for me,” Chadwell said. “Aside from learning about the intricacies and functions of the Montana government, I formed strong friendships with kids from all parts of Montana and heard from some life-changing speakers. I am overjoyed with the American Legion for making this experience available to us!”
At the end of the week, two delegates are selected to attend Boys Nation held in Washington, D.C. These two delegates will represent Montana as “senators” to pass bills and run for National office during that week.
Chadwell will serve as one of these delegates at Boys Nation in July.