Boys State mock elections teach leadership

Daniel Ahrens, a senior-to-be at Los Alamos High School, is participating in New Mexico's Boy State this week.

Boys State, an American Legion program, teaches high school students about civics by allowing the students to form city and state governments in the course of a week.

Ahrens was elected to the city council among his peers and hopes to be elected governor by the end of the week.

After he graduates from Los Alamos High School next year, Ahrens wants to study physics, environmental science and public policy so that he can work towards making the United States energy independent.

Jillian Holbert: Portales News-Tribune

New Mexico Boys State participant Daniel Ahrens of Los Alamos writes an outline for his election speech for Boys State elections at Eastern New Mexico University's Campus Union Building. The program teaches high school students about government through mock elections.

What kind of energy are you hopeful about for the future?

I think the best one right now is natural gas because we have a lot of natural reserves of natural gas. And I think that in the future and more of the long-term situation … natural gas is going to get us going for the next 100, 150 years or so. But I think that after that, we're going to have to look at other technologies like nuclear and that sort of thing.

What are some of the misconceptions about nuclear energy?

I think that the main one is that we hear a lot about these huge meltdowns but we don't hear about how efficient nuclear energy is for the amount you're putting into it. When we hear about the Fukushima Daiichi plant (a nuclear plant in Japan that had a disaster in 2011), like oh my goodness, nuclear meltdown that's going to destroy the world but one of the major problems with that, in my opinion, we face coal plant explosions and all of that. We often confuse it with its weaponized state and I think that because you can get so much energy out of a small fuel rod and because there's so much energy coming out and you're not polluting the air, I think that people fail to realize the environmental benefits of having nuclear power.

How did you get interested in energy?

I work on a trail crew in the summer so I do a lot of ecology work in northern New Mexico. I got to learn a lot about water basins and the resources that affect agriculture in the region. I think that I've had repeated exposure to both the ecology aspect and the energy aspect through the national laboratory and having nuclear engineers sitting across from you at Starbucks and you can just ask a question. That has really helped me understand these issues.

Jillian Holbert: Portales News-Tribune

Daniel Ahrens explains his policy points at the Boys State city council elections.

What have you learned from Boys State thus far?

In terms of elections, it's really important to get your name out there because a lot of people just sort of don't recognize names when they're filling out the ballot so the first thing you need to do is talk to people to get a name to the face but also to make sure you take positions that matter to people. Don't just have ambiguous positions but have strong opinions about stuff and have clear policy. Explain it to people, but don't overcomplicate things.

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