The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Teens get government experience at Boys, Girls State


P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

FOUR LOCAL students who attended the past summer's Boys State and Girls State in Michigan are, from left, sitting: Joshua Hale, Jessica Beckman, Angelina Jarvela, and Zane Ozzello. Standing behind them from the Ironwood American Legion Post 5 are, from left: Mary Ann Bolich, Boys State Director Noah Hale, Legion Auxiliary Girls State Director Mary Hampton Kusz and Legion Auxiliary President Edie Stockhaus. The Legion honored the students on Tuesday evening.


Ironwood - Local members of this year's Boys State and Girls State weren't sure they wanted to go, but they all returned in awe from their downstate experience.

And one of them, Zane Ozzello, had the further honor of then being chosen to participate in Boys Nation, which included trips to Washington, D.C.

Ozzello, along with fellow participants Angelina Jarvela, Joshua Hale and Jessica Beckman, are now seniors at Ironwood High School, and they shared their summer experience on Tuesday evening at Ironwood's American Legion Post 5.

"One of the first things our counselor told us was, 'You will not want to leave by the end of the week,' and we all thought he was kidding," said Hale. But all of them agreed with Beckman, who confirmed, "No one wanted to leave" and Jarvela, who said, "We grew not only as people but as leaders, too."

Boys State was held at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, and Girls State was held at Michigan State University in Lansing. Both events took place from June 18-24.

According to Mary Hampston Kusz, who is the Girls State Director for Post 5's Auxiliary, the events are set up to give teens practical experience with government and community affairs.

"The message they keep giving us is that it's gonna be a week that changes a lifetime," said Ozzello, who played a "litigator" within the mock government created within the Boys State. In his role, he helped to save the "governor" from impeachment proceedings.

"Boys State was my high school government class," said Ozzello, who called the experience "one of the best decisions of my life."

Jarvela, who acted as "city treasurer" for her mock government, said she also got to sing a song in a talent show for her mock city. She described her week as "inspirational, fun, hands on."

"We both knew nothing about government," said Beckman, of her and Jarvela, but the Girls State allowed them to participate in faux local- and state-level elections and to learn how to use voting machines. Beckman said she has remained friends with other girls she met at the event.

The students also learned what it was like to witness or experience loss, as Hale described in great humor. "I ran for 'mayor' and I lost. I ran for 'city attorney' and I lost," he said. "The next day I ran for the 'House of Representatives' and was elected. Then I ran for 'Speaker' and lost, twice."

On the final night, Hale said the boys talked until after 2 a.m. and he returned home knowing that political knowledge will be valuable to his own interests in business. "It's an experience that I will not forget for the rest of my life," he said.

Ozzello said his participation in Boys State was heightened by an invitation to apply for Boys Nation, which includes two boys from every state except Hawaii, which did not participate. With the help of counselor support, Ozzello resulted in being one of the 98 boys to attend Boys Nation, based at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., from July 21-29.

While there, the boys visited sites in Washington, DC, and listened to speakers every day. They visited the Capitol and met several senators. They also learned about American involvement in various wars.

A highlight of Boys Nation was when the boys got to visit the White House and shake the hand of President Donald Trump, who took photos with them and gave a 15-minute speech. Girls Nation members also attended the event.

Ozzello described the President's speech as being about "how we're the future-we're the chance to make everything better. It was a powerful thing to hear from the leader of the free world."

The four teens all thanked American Legion members for the experience.

Noah Hale, who is the Boys State Director for Post 5, as well as Joshua Hale's father, said the teens returned as "better, more rounded, more educated citizens" and, as such, represented "a wise investment."

Hale added that all four of this year's honorees will help to recruit and interview participants for next year's events. Participants for the 2018 Boys State and Girls State will be students who now are high school juniors.


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