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Kenston students attend Boys, Girls State

Each summer, high school juniors gather at the American Legion Boys State and the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State to participate in mock government exercises. Kenston Forest School, with the aid of the Blackstone Ruritan Club, selected for the summer of 2015 Ben Marshall and Todd Kirks for Boys State at Radford University, and Lauren Burnette and Libby Hawthorne for Girls State at Longwood University.

Participants gained knowledge of the rights and privileges of every citizen, as well as some of the inner workings of city, county, and state governmental systems. Delegates elected the necessary positions for each level of government, worked on committees, developed legislation, and performed the duties of their stations, all in the name of understanding the way our commonwealth functions. “We practiced the jobs of people we know in our communities,” Hawthorne said, noting how the experience illuminated those day-to-day lives.

In some instances, delegations tested the system’s limits; as Marshall explained, a third party gained unheard-of power, sending the traditional parties into panic—complicated politics ensued, which Marshall summarized with the remark, “We almost killed our executive branch.” Rest assured this quip does not reflect a group of high school juniors shirking their duty to learn; rather, the students involved in these situations at Boys and Girls State see much more clearly now what is possible in the literal letter of the law, from mundane duties to reform or even brinksmanship, an education that will surely translate to a deeper understanding of the way our government currently functions.

The students of the Kenston Forest delegation now work their way through senior year, sending out applications to prestigious universities, completing their last high school coursework, and carrying forward their knowledge of this summer—the relationships they formed, the processes they learned hands-on—into the time of their lives where they will be influencing our country’s governance as informed, responsible citizens.