John Yager doesn't have political aspirations. He just wants to know when politicians "are pulling a fast one."
After a semester of government class at Hayden High School, he still had lots of questions about how the government, particularly Congress, works.
So he applied for Boys State, a national program that teaches students about politics by immersing them in a mock government system as candidates for city, county and state offices.
"I was inspired to apply for the chance to go and learn about government because I don't really know what it is they do," Yager said.
The American Legion Ben--jamin J. Hofstetter Post 89 and American Legion Auxiliary chose Yager and five other incoming seniors at Hayden High School to attend the Boys and Girls State conferences this month.
Yager and Keenan Bruchez will head to the 56th annual Colorado Boys State conference, to be held from June 12 to 17 at Colorado State University.
Desiray Barnes, Lauren Berrien, Mariah Doolin and Alicia Hall will attend the 58th annual Colorado Columbine Girls State event, to be held from June 6 to 11 at Western State College in Gunnison.
Sponsored by the American Legion, the state conferences attract thousands of students from throughout the nation.
The students get a taste of the political life, including giving speeches and writing bills, while gaining an appreciation for the democratic system, said Ron Nereson, Boys State chairman with the Hayden American Legion.
"The main force of Boys State is to promote Americanism," he said.
Students tend to understand the political system much better by engaging in it, said Christine Epp, Girls State chairwoman for the Auxiliary.
"The girls find they get so much out of it when they are involved and have to run for office," said Epp, who attended Girls State in 1969 and made lifelong contacts there.
"Even though we learned about the political process in school, it was so different to actually live it. ... It really broadened our horizons," she said.
Members of the Legion and Auxiliary encouraged students to apply for the program during a presentation at the high school in March. To qualify, students must complete their junior year of high school and be in the top one-third of their class academically.
They also must write essays about how the experience will benefit their futures.
Legion and Auxiliary members interviewed qualified candidates and then voted on those that would best represent Hayden, also taking into account students' character, volunteer work and participation in extracurricular activities.
Yager and Bruchez scored well in all categories and also exhibited an appreciation for the American system, Nereson said.
"They come from patriotic families," he said. "Their grandparents or uncles have served to safeguard the American way of life."
The American Legion Auxiliary was happy to be able to send all four Girls State applicants to the conference, Epp said.
"They are so enthusiastic and eager to learn more and gain knowledge in the political process and to develop themselves as future citizens," she said. "They are very outstanding girls."
The students will report back to American Legion Post members at an annual banquet in the fall.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.