Sep 03, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
When school goes back into session this week, one of the first questions students are asked is what they did over the summer. While many teens will have good answers to that question, Cazenovia teen Sam Evans might have the most unique response — he spent a week as a national senator in Washington D.C.
Evans, a home-schooled student who turns 18 in September, was one of only 98 high school juniors nationwide chosen to participate in the American Legion’s annual Boys Nation event where the young leaders receive an education on the structure and function of the federal government.
“It was an amazing experience, once in a lifetime,” Evans said. “I was overwhelmed at how brilliant the people were there.”
Evans was selected and sponsored by the members of the Cazenovia American Legion Post 88 to represent their post first at Boys State in Morrisville in June and then at Boys Nation in Washington in July.
“He was the only one in all of Madison County [chosen] for at least 40 years to go to Boys Nation,” said Cazenovia American Legion Post 88 Commander Jack Mott. “He represented us very well from the post.”
The American Legion Boys State and Boys Nation are among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high-school students. Selectees participate in a program in which students become part of the operation of local, county, state and federal governments. Students are selected through their local American Legion posts, the members of which look for high school juniors who excel in academic, extracurricular and volunteer activities.
Evans, who lives in Perryville with his parents and five siblings, was brought to the attention of the Post 88 selection committee by his Boy Scout Troop leader George Schmit. Evans is a past Senior Patrol Leader and is in the process of earning the rank of Eagle Scout. He has applied to and hopes to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, majoring in political science and criminal justice. He was interviewed by the Legion committee and chosen as one of their five students to participate in the Boys State event. The Post 88 group included Evans, Zach Adler, Galen Okoniewski, Will Fellows and Mike Nourse.
At Boys State, which was held at the SUNY Morrisville campus in June, Evans learned about the structure of city, county and state governments. Participants were elected to various offices and participated in legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses and recreational programs. The students also met with officials of various government agencies who spoke about their duties, were instructed in drill (marching) and physical training led by United States Marines.
After returning from Boys State, Evans applied to and was chosen to attend Boys Nation in Washington in late July. The week-long event of 98 “senators” — two from each of 49 of the 50 states — was held mainly at the Marymount University campus. There, the students were sworn in as senators and split into different sections and political parties – as a way to create typical political gridlock. They then arranged their Senate to emulate the U.S. government: they elected a president, vice president and president pro tem of the Senate; they chose members of committees and subcommittees; and they presented, debated and voted on bills written by the student senators.
Due to the “pretty long process” it takes to consider submitted bills, Evans said he was pleased when the senate considered the bill he wrote and brought to the conference: a bill to ban vermiculites in large amounts until the Environmental Protection Agency creates process to detect and regulate it. Vermiculite is a clay-like phyllosilicate commercially used in many building materials that sometimes contains asbestos.
Evans’ bill was passed through subcommittee and committee and brought to the Senate floor, where it was defeated. He also spoke briefly on the floor in support of his bill.
“I’m glad the Senate looked it over and considered it,” he said.
Boys Nation was not work inside a conference room, however. Participants also took numerous field trips to locations around Washington, including visits to the National Mall, Capitol Hill and the national American Legion headquarters. Evans said he and his fellow New York state senator also met with staffers from the offices of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and discussed the senators’ current legislative efforts. “I’m really interested in politics and I liked that a lot,” Evans said.
The delegates also received a tour of the White House and got a visit from President Obama. Obama spoke briefly to the boys and listened as they sang him happy birthday, Evans said. A video of the president’s visit with the Boys Nation delegates was posted on the White House website.
“It was just an amazing experience,” Evans said of his week in Washington.
Evans, who starts his senior year in high school this week, said he is not sure what his future will be or if it will lead him into politics, but his goal is to receive a law degree and become a practicing attorney. He has applied to West Point and is considering a long-term commitment to the military.
On Veterans Day this November, current and former military personnel at Cazenovia American Legion Post 88 will honor Evans and all the participants selected by Post 88 who attended the Boys State convention in June, said Post 88 Commander Mott. All the boys will give brief summaries of their experiences at Morrisville and the effect it had on them.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.