By CAMERON KROETZ
California Boys State changed my life. Last summer I had the distinct privilege and honor to be the delegate from Redlands East Valley High School to the 79th Session of California Boys State. Boys State is a prestigious summer program run by the American Legion that aims to instruct 1,000 boys from every high school in the state about Californian civics by allowing them to take a hands on approach to government. Each Legion post in the state sponsors anywhere between one and ten boys each, and sends them to Sacramento State University in late June to take part in the experience of a lifetime. I want to extend my thanks to American Legion Post 106 for giving me the opportunity to participate in Boys State.
I arrived at Post 106 in Redlands around 7:00 pm with my mom and a small duffle bag; I wasn’t quite sure what I was about to embark on. My mom and I said our goodbyes and then I was alone with about 70 other guys from all around the Inland Empire that I had never met before and I remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” I began making some small talk with some of the other guys for the next hour until about ten Legionnaires began to herd us into big charter buses with Boys State placards on the front. The buses began to move at about 10:00 pm and we were on our way. We stopped at several points in the Central Valley and met up with other buses; our caravan of about 20 buses eventually pulled into Sacramento State around 7:30 am.
I got off the bus and approached the registration table; the old woman who checked me in gave me a lanyard with a name tag, a dorm room assignment, and my “city and county names”. Each dormitory is considered a county with each floor being a city within the county; I was assigned to Reagan City. My dorm room was on the top floor of the dormitory and was a traditional college dorm with two beds, two desks, a community bathroom down the hall. The first order of business was to establish our city government. Our city hall was in a conference room downstairs; it was a collection of tables and chairs with one high table meant for the city council to sit. Reagan City, a group of about 40 guys, elected our city council and the council appointed a mayor, a city clerk, a police and fire chief, and what we called our “city propaganda minister”. And that was just the first day.
What came next was a week of fun and friendship; from official party conventions and city council meetings, to late night hijinks involving paper wildfires in our city and drawings of Ronald Reagan riding an eagle. I learned a lot about government and myself. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning how to conduct myself like a politician and how to present my position on an issue in a clear and concise manner all while making friends in the process. About halfway through the week I ran for the state senate and I lost the vote by a slim margin, but that didn’t matter to me. What really mattered was that I was having fun and participating in something greater than myself. As the week drew to a close I began to realize that my city had become a band of brothers. We shared our contact information and many of us stay in contact to this day, almost a year later. Again, I would like to thank the American Legion, specifically Post 106 for allowing me to partake in such an amazing program that has helped shape who I am today.