Badger State participants gain grasp of government
Government and politics are two topics of discussion that have been on the rise, especially after the last presidential election. As students have reportedly been becoming more involved in the political arena, politics are no longer confined to adults. Badger State is an event created for high school juniors, both boys and girls, who have interest in government and citizenship. The idea is that all of the participants have become citizens of a fictional 51st state which functions under State of Wisconsin laws. This past year three West juniors, Jack Buechel, Kynda Alzoubi and Amelia Reed, were chosen to participate.
Alzoubi summarized the program in her own words.
“Badger State is a week-long program at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh about government and politics,” she said. “There were city, county and state level governments, and we got to run for office and propose mock bills, amongst other things.”
The citizens elect officials using standard procedures, including campaigning for their desired office.
“It was really fun to coordinate that because politics is something that I’m really interested in,” Alzoubi said.
Besides meeting Governor Scott Walker, Alzoubi had many other highlights throughout the week.
“I enjoyed managing the campaigns of those running for state office positions,” she said. “I myself ran for county office as district attorney and also wrote and proposed a party platform.”
Although the academic aspect was one of the highlights of their experience, Buechel’s favorite part of the program had more to do with the people he encountered throughout the week.
“I met a lot of friends and it was a good chance to step out of my comfort zone, meet some new people and have fun while doing so,” he said.
Reed’s memories of her stay during the week are of getting to learn about government with real-world applications.
“Social studies courses in school are not my strongest classes, because I sometimes struggle to relate to the events I’m learning about through a textbook,” she said. “But when you are in a fast-paced, mock government, the connections become so real.”
Everyday life skills were also improved by participating in this event.
“The spontaneity of every speech I had to give was a huge confidence-booster,” Reed said. “I had to think of things to say on a whim to convince people that I was the best candidate, and I have no doubt that those skills will transfer to other areas of my life such as class presentations and job interviews,” she said.
A mock government is similar to situations that real politicians are a part of. Social studies teacher Paul Stellpflug encourages this event for students.
“It’s a great lesson on how our democratic republic is supposed to work,” he said. “One learns firsthand just how difficult it is to legislate.”
Stellpflug acknowledged the specific aspects of government students get to recreate.
“Students learn how to negotiate on public policy issues and, most importantly, how to cooperate while compromising to get something done in the public sphere,” he said.
Reed promotes this opportunity, appreciating the knowledge she has gained.
“Politicians are the reason behind our plowed roads in the winter and our state parks opening in the summer,” she said. “It’s so important to understand local and state government, because you will someday be voting for the leaders that make decisions for you on a smaller scale than federal representatives can.”
For Alzoubi, this opportunity also gave her the chance to get to know herself better and gain perspective.
“It was humbling because so many of the girls there were well-achieved and the type of people that you would look up to. These are some of the people that you may be competing with in the future: the best of the best,” she said.
Alzoubi observed that there were experiences at Badger State that she could not gain simply from her education inside of school.
“When you’re in high school, the environment is a lot less competitive,” she said. “This broadened my horizons to meet others out there who are immensely successful.”
As for future Badger State participants, Alzoubi had words of advice for those who may be interested.
“Social studies classes like AP Government and Politics and other AP courses prepare you well for an experience such as this,” she said.
Reed encourages anyone with an interest in government or leadership to apply for the program when the option becomes available.
“I hope to see the number of applicants from West grow, because people don’t understand how great of an experience Badger State is,” she said. “The only way to get that kind of real-world experience is to attend the conference, so I encourage anyone who is interested to apply. You won’t regret it.”
Along with the political knowledge gained during the weeklong stay, participants also acquired an advanced level of competence in many areas of life. Alzoubi picked up some tips on collaboration.
“It’s a great way to get involved in the community,” she said of the event. “Even if you don’t necessarily want to go into politics, it still teaches you a lot about working with other people and how to react in certain situations.”