Hayden students diving into politics

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— Seven Hayden youths will get hands-on experience about how government functions during the weeklong Boys State and Colorado Columbine Girls State conferences next month.

American Legion Benjamin J. Hofstetter Post No. 89 and the American Legion Auxiliary Post in Hayden are sponsoring six of the local children. Russell Waugh, who attends Hayden High School, is sponsored by Steamboat Springs American Legion Leo H. Hill Post No. 44.

Like Waugh, Jordan Williams and Garrett Murchison will attend Boys State at the Colorado State University at Pueblo campus from June 10 to 16.

Jade Stees, Samantha Varaha, Brianna Ford and Heather Wertenberger will attend Girls State at Western State University in Gunnison from June 10 to 15.

Hayden resident Ron Nereson has been the Boys State chairman for four years. He said participants in Boys and Girls State take roles in a mock government.

"The boys decide what office they want to hold, they campaign, they make posters and then an election is held," Nereson said. "Then they conduct business."

To qualify for the conferences, the students had to complete their junior year and be in the top third of their class academically.

Students also had to write essays and were interviewed by Legion and Auxiliary members.

"We grilled them, I guess would be an easy way to say it," Nereson said. "We asked them what their aspirations are."

Nereson said they needed to have demonstrated past performance in leadership ability, enthusiasm, honesty, cooperation and community service.

"We want the most progressive boys," Nereson said. "When they get down to state, we want them to shine."

The Legion and Auxiliary pay each student's $250 registration fee as well as travel expenses.

He predicted there would be about 200 other boys at Colorado's Boys State. Thousands of students participate in the program nationwide.

"They do have an enjoyable time, but it's a hands-on, weeklong experience in government," Nereson said.

The Hayden students will report back to American Legion Post members after the conference at an annual banquet in the fall.

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