Program offers leadership experience

Brad Sedillo walked humbly across a stage in a room filled with boys roaring in applause for his big win. Sedillo was just elected governor of New Mexico, that is, in New Mexico's Boys State program.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Representatives of Armijo city in Boys State approached the senate to receive approval for funds they needed to aid with their water disaster.

Sedillo and 137 other rising high school seniors-to-be from New Mexico, including Roosevelt and Curry counties, established cities, counties and a state within the course of a week at Eastern New Mexico University.

"My cabinet will work hard to make sure this program is the best that we can make it for the future," Sedillo yelled to the crowd of excited teenagers who filled the seats in ENMU's Becky Sharp Auditorium.

The participants of New Mexico's Boys State, a summer leadership program sponsored by the American Legion, get to learn about the inner workings of government and democracy through hands-on experience.

In addition to the experience, organizers hope that the program will get students motivated into taking political action in their communities.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

In Boys State court, defense attorney Aaron Roybal stood up at the podium to defend his client Chris DeLeon for sagging his pants, a crime in Boys State. The others in the back of the room awaited their trials.

The first day the boys arrived they were broken up into four cities and held primary elections for mayor and other offices. This is when the true leaders emerged because within hours of getting there, a few students ran for office.

The week then consists of the building of a state which includes, two cities forming a county, county primaries, gubernatorial elections and the forming of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Each room was abuzz with the different parts of government. Here is a sample of what went on:

The Armijo disaster

The boys who were residents of Armijo city in DeLeon County were given a scenario in which their city of 33,000 was in a crisis due to disaster. The water plant had been destroyed, flooding the city and leaving residents with no drinking water.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Mayor of Boys State's Armijo city, William Van Dran, right, wrote a resolution that requested financial help from the state government for a water plant disaster in their city.

They decided they needed to request state funds to pay for the repair of the plant but were having a difficult time writing a resolution with members of their city council being called to court for "crimes" they committed.

"We're dropping like flies," said a frustrated William Van Dran, mayor of Armijo. "All the rest of our people are either criminals or in legislative session."

Van Dran and city council members wrote a $1 million resolution and asked the governor to declare their area a state of disaster.


Boys State participants were required to hold mock trials for crimes that they defined, such as chewing gum or sagging pants.

The courtroom, in ENMU's College of Business, was packed with offenders awaiting their trial. The boys joked that their court system was similar to real life because of how congested it was.

A local attorney and New Mexico state police officer Harold Edwards assisted the boys with the process of court trials.

County commission

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

New Mexico's Boys State particpants listened to speeches from their elected officials in Eastern New Mexico University's Becky Sharp Auditorium Wednesday.

The county commissioners of DeLeon County were in limbo trying to create a budget for the fiscal year.

They were stressed with all the programs and costs they had to factor into their budget with a limited amount.

House of Representatives and Senate

Members of the legislative houses were also in high-stress situations trying to get legislation passed. They had been in session for two days.

"Our point of being in the House of Representatives is to pass bills and to write legislation for the state that we feel would help it," said state Rep. Bryce Matanis, of Las Cruces.

Senators were also hard at work trying to pass legislation regarding bullying. Senators felt that bullying was not only relevant to high school students across the nation, but it applied directly to them because some of the student leaders had witnessed bullying incidents while at Boys State.

State capitol

The second floor of ENMU's Campus Union Building is where the state offices are located. Sedillo was with his aides appointing members to his cabinet. He started off as mayor of Castillo in the DeCastro county and was elected to be governor by Wednesday.

"Now I have to basically run everything," said a frantic Sedillo, originally from Albuquerque, who plans to run for state and federal office in the future. His peers agreed that he had the aura of a politician.

His attorney general, Jesse Martinez of Farmington, also plans to seek office on the federal level and attend law school.

"There's a real divide between the leaders and followers of this generation," Martinez said. "We're willing to fight for our freedom."

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