WHS students run for state office positions at Boys and Girls State programs

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WHS students Sam Petersen and Marin Spalding were recognized for their participation at the annual Boys and Girls State Recognition Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 20. (L to R: Boys State Chair Ted Hillyer, Petersen, Spalding, Girls State Chair Silvia Hillyer and WHS Guidance Counselor Marcella Heredia.)

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Winters High School students Marin Spalding and Sam Petersen had an opportunity to experience government at a new level by working with other student representatives from across the county to actively creating a city, county and state governmental bodies.   WHS Guidance Counselor Marcella Heredia said one male and one female from the junior class are nominated by teachers, and if they accept the nomination go through an interview process by Heredia, the previous student delegate and Ted and Silvia Hillyer who run the Yolo County program. Participating students have a chance to run for office, execute a campaign, hold elections for and vote on each of the offices. “They learn about government, how it is run and how to be good citizens,” said Heredia. “They learn that it’s not just a governor and a lieutenant governor who run the state. It starts at a local level.” According to Heredia, students are assigned to a floor of the residence hall they’re staying in for the week-long program. Each floor is a city and each participating student runs for different offices available for that city. Besides the experience of running for office, students also have an opportunity to listen to guest speakers who speak on different topics of government. Heredia said it’s an outside experience for participating students from Winters. “They are going out and literally among a city of 1,000 strangers their own age,” said Heredia. “They get to meet people and they are learning some civic responsibility.” Spalding said she learned how to put herself out there and experienced the impact of striving to be your best. She ran for District Attorney and Attorney General for her assigned city. Although she didn’t win either election, she said she has gained important leadership skills. “I learned how to talk to people and campaign for yourself,” said Spalding. “I also learned more leadership skills that I will be taking form Girls State and applying to my office positions for FFA.” Spalding currently is the Vice President for the Winters FFA chapter and the Secretary for the FFA Yolo Section. “Both of these offices require me to run business meetings,” said Spalding. “The skills that I learned from Girls State will help me out running those business meetings and in talking to people.” Spalding said speech writing was challenging because students are not given much time to prepare for the campaign. “Writing a speech on what your running for and listing your qualifications and not having a lot of time to prep was a challenge. Five minutes to memorize it was a challenge,” said Spalding. “After I did it, it felt nice that if I ever am in a situation to write a speech on-the-spot I know I can do it.” Petersen said one of the biggest things he learned from Boys State is how important the local and county levels of government really are. He said on Day One they took a mock bar exam to see who would be able to represent their city in the legal fields and serve as their judge. “From the get-go we we saw how important these roles are,” said Petersen. Petersen served in the role of Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for his assigned county. “It was really interesting to see the different laws going from county to county and even form city to city,” said Petersen. “Every law was being tried in court for some small details. You really had to take time to craft the law so it fit the parameters. I don’t think people really realize how much work goes into each proposition and law that gets passed.”   Petersen said participation was important and that everyone’s input was heard at their City Council meetings. He said one of the biggest challenges at Boys State was the divide between people who focused more on the legal aspect versus the people who focused on campaigning and the political aspects.   “Out in the campaigns and the law making processes not many of us knew the technicalities in the California Constitution.” He said his assigned city had a lot of people who were knowledgeable  and when his city went to court their representative was someone who already knew a lot already about the California Constitution. “We got to learn some of that. It was a challenge because not knowing all the little nuances made us more vulnerable.” Petersen said the experience of having to create laws will help him out in when he is old enough to vote in an election. “When voting on laws that we made we had to say: ‘Is that really the best idea for us? Is that really the best idea for the people in our county? Is it legal? Does it fit all the perampeters?’ I think that will really help with voting for things in the real world,” said Petersen. “It was interesting that they brought reps from the California government. We got to pre-register to vote if we were 17. I did. It means that I’m all ready to vote when I turn 18.” The Boys and Girls State programs rely on funds from donations and fundraisers in order to send at least at minimum one young man and one young women from WHS each year. Silvia Hillyer said they’ve only had a sponsor one year and that financial assistance is greatly appreciated. “Funding is definitely an issue because we have to raise about $8,000 each year,” Hillyer said. Petersen says the experience gives students important life lessons and he would like to see the Winters community rally together to send more than one person to each program each year. “It’s a very valuable experience for anyone who is able to participate. Even filling out the application gave me information on how to fill out a college application,” said Petersen. “When they talked to you they treated you like an adult. It was kind of a new experience for most people.” He said some schools had three to four people representing at Boys State and that it would be enormous for Winters to be able to send more than one student. He said students from the same schools were not put in the same assigned city and being in different cities would give the group and “in” into other parts of the experience. “They made it so that most of us weren’t in the city with someone from our post. They were all in different cities,” said Petersen. “Getting at least one more person would expand the experience so much for Winters. I think it would be a really good thing to do.” Both Petersen and Spalding met students from different city dynamics and it was quite an opportunity to learn how to connect with others. Petersen said a key thing was finding the things that makes us similar rather than focus on what made us different. “The single biggest thing I took away was the comamradie,” said Petersen. “We were all different being from northern and southern California. There were a few of us that were from a small town. A lot were from bigger cities like Los Angeles. We found ways to connect that weren’t ‘where we’re from’ or ‘what we believe in.’ That was a big takeaway for ‘community’ in general, but especially in Winters.” Spalding said the challenge of being involved in the process can provide students with the experience to get involved in the community. “Girls State is important because it definitely challenges you, but it also helps give you skills that you’ll need to apply in a community,” said Spalding. “I got to be very involved in what I did. Being involved there will help me to be more involved in my community and help me to take more action at different events.” Hillyer said anyone interested in learning more about donating to the programs can contact her at  530-219-3355 or by email at silvia.hillyer@gmail.com. Peterson was one of 10 young men sponsored by the Yolo Post to attend the Boys State program held at the California State University, Sacramento campus June 16-22. Spalding was one of eight young women sponsored by the Yolo Auxiliary to attend the Girls State program held on the Claremont McKenna campus in Ontario June 25-30. Anne Guidici and Thomas Kakutani attended as WHS representatives last year. WHS has been participating in the Boys and Girls State programs for over 15 years. ]]>

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