This past June marked the 75th anniversary of the Badger Boys State program hosted by Ripon College, as well the 73rd anniversary of the Badger Girls state program hosted by UW-Oshkosh. MHS juniors Brett Seubert, son of Don and Darcy Seubert of Merrill, and Morgan Bloch, daughter of Darrin and Karen Bloch of Merrill, were selected to represent MAPS at their respective events.
The annual program of the American Legion Department of Wisconsin, brought together young men and women as incoming seniors, to literally form a 51st state known as Badger Boys State and Badger Girls State.
Participants develop their own party platforms, pass local ordinances and utilize a judicial system to enforce the laws and constitution of the 51st state. Additionally, citizens choose from a series of schools of instruction, including law, peace officer, leadership, public finance, public speaking, parliamentary procedure, and public persuasion and campaign strategies. Badger Boys and Girls State citizens also have an opportunity to participate in a variety of team sports that compete throughout the week.
“This is a remarkable youth leadership program designed to educate students in the duties, privileges, rights, and responsibilities of American citizenship.” said Fred Berns, Badger Boys State Director. “We believe youth learn best by actively participating in the process. The eight-day (five-day for girls) program begins with the students as they are known at Badger Boys (and Girls) State, separated into cities and counties. Throughout the week, the citizens campaign for a variety of offices to establish their own city, county and state government.”
Seubert’s role was that of one of two police officers for the “City of Nelson” in “Cameron County, Badger Boys State.”
As Seubert explains, selection for representatives was a result of collaboration amongst MHS Social Studies teachers to select one male student and one female student to represent the district.
Each representative must rank in the top one-third of their respective classes, be of well-rounded character and have sponsorship. Seubert’s sponsorship came courtesy of local American Legion Post 46.
“I was sitting in the commons one day last January when Mr. (John) Paul, one of our guidance counselors, sat down next to me and told me I had been selected. I had no idea what to think, I was pretty surprised!” the 16-year-old scholar adds with a smile. “I had never heard of it before, but Mr. Paul told me to take my time and gave me a brochure to read. I talked it over with my parents and we decided it would be a great opportunity.”
“We weren’t really sure what to think about it either,” adds Seubert’s father Don. “We had heard of the Badger State competition in terms of sports, but the Badger Boys State program was pretty new to all of us. Neither of us had ever heard of it before. But the more we learned the more we liked the idea. To bring kids together from all over the state, to spend a week together learning about local government is amazing.”
Bloch was also contacted by Paul and was equally unaware of the program before being contacted.
“The (social studies) pod teachers gave me no warning whatsoever,” Bloch adds. “I was shocked at first when I was told I was selected, then I got pretty excited!”
Seubert arrived at Ripon College on Saturday, June 11 to begin his eight-day journey along with 870 other boys. Bloch arrived on the campus of UW-Oshkosh on Sunday, June 19 to begin her five-day journey, along with 730 other girls.
Following orientation with other students and room assignments on Day One, participants – or delegates, as they’re officially titled within their respective programs- took a unique oath of office to uphold the constitution, as well as the expectations of the program and their respective districts.
On Day Two, delegates were immersed in the formation of their respective counties and states.
The girls’ “state” was comprised of seven counties and 14 cities, while the boys’ consisted of nine counties and 27 cities.
Each dorm building where delegates resided, was organized as a “county” while each floor was organized as a “city.”
First, delegates were organized to form the two political parties, Nationalist and Federalist, which make up Badger Boys and Badger Girls States.
Following organization of political parties, delegates then nominated candidates for various county and city government political seats including sheriff, mayor, municipal judge and a five-member city council, amongst many others.
Following nominations on Day Two, Day Three marked election-day; filling the roles of elected officials, followed by appointments for additional positions such as police chief, police officer, fire chief and Director of Emergency Management.
While Seubert staffed the city of Nelson Police Department, Bloch was elected as the Honorable Judge Morgan Bloch for the city of Birch Municipal Court, Babcock County.
Although the Boys and Girls program differed a bit in terms of scheduling, the general direction was identical. Following formation of city governments was that of county governments and then state government.
Roles of state government consisted of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice and Superintendent of Public Instruction. Following state elections, the new Supreme Court Justice from each state was sworn in by Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.
Bradley and Governor Scott Walker served as guest speakers for both programs.
Both Seubert and Bloch readily admit to being kept very busy. Aside from holding daily government meetings to pass ordinances and discuss governmental affairs, delegates also participated in various workshops and classes; complete with additional guest speakers. In fact, delegates received only two hours of personal time each day aside from meals, so as to allow time for the array of scheduled meetings and activities.
However, while other delegates were enjoying personal time and various activities, Officer Seubert was on patrol. But the soon-to-be MHS senior apparently didn’t mind.
“It was actually pretty fun,” he adds. “As time went on and we got to know each other, we started having more fun with our city meetings and our ordinances. As an example, one day we passed an ordinance stating citizens from other cities could only use our showers and bathrooms between the hours of 8 and 8:30 a.m. and 10:30-11 p.m.”
If Seubert were to catch anyone in violation, he then took them aside and issued citations from a uniform citation book, much like that of real-time law enforcement officers. Citations ranged anywhere from $5-$50.
In the event of someone being caught trespassing in the city of Nelson’s shower/restroom facilities, they would face a $5 citation. The city of Nelson later passed another ordinance ordering any citizen passing through the halls of the City of Nelson, and not being a citizen of the City of Nelson, to be dancing at all times. If a violator was found not to be dancing, he/she would face another $5 citation.
Citations were paid in the form of Badger Bucks, as $190 in Badger Bucks was issued to each delegate on day one.
The Honorable Judge Bloch on the other hand, looked to preside over a trial from a homicide which occurred in the City of Birch one morning.
“We woke up one morning to a crime scene,” the 17-year-old MHS senior-to-be explains. “A body had been dismembered and laying all over the floor, with the body parts made of tape. So our sheriff, police officer, police chief, city attorney and district attorney came to investigate. We all suspected one of our floor counselors (adult volunteers assigned to each floor), but they all ended up having great alibis. Then just as it was about to go to court, a citizen confessed. So I didn’t get to preside over the case,” she adds with a laugh. “It was kind of silly but fun at the same time.”
Bloch admits the City of Birch enjoyed their share of hijinks in terms of ordinances as well.
“One of our toilets had an issue where it would splash at times. If and when the toilet splashed, we had an ordinance requiring everyone to call out ‘There she blows!”
As Seubert and Bloch prepare for their upcoming senior years, both took with them a great deal of memories and lessons from their programs.
“Most of all, I learned I can be a great leader,” Seubert said. “I learned how much responsibility local government leaders have and it’s more than I ever thought. I left Ripon with a new sort of respect for our leaders. It’s a tough but rewarding job being a city official.”
In terms of his most memorable moment of Badger State Boys, Seubert mentions a meeting with another delegate on the first day of the program.
“During free-time on the first day, I decided rather than sitting in my dorm room and doing nothing, I would go ahead and socialize and try to meet new people. While doing so, I happened to meet another delegate who was very approachable and very open to talking to anyone and everyone. I admired that about him and he earned my respect right away.
“Overall it was a great experience! I would strongly encourage anyone to take advantage of it if they get the opportunity. It was honestly one of the best weeks of my life and one I’ll never forget.”
Bloch cites the evening of Wednesday, June 22, as one she will never forget.
“After we had finished our political activities for the day, we witnessed a flag disposal ceremony,” she explains. “It was a very solemn and beautiful outdoor ceremony where they follow very detailed steps to dispose of a worn and tattered US flag. After the ceremony, we went into the gym where another American Legion member read out loud a children’s book called ‘Little White Table’, which was about Prisoners of War. It was just a very emotional evening but amazing at the same time. Before that I had a great deal of respect for our veterans, but after that night I developed a whole different level of respect.
“After attending Badger Girls State I think serving in some form of public office would be great. I developed a strong sense of respect for government officials after being down there, learning and seeing firsthand how much work is involved in serving on local government. It was a great experience meeting so many other girls from other areas, from different walks of life and different interests. But despite our differences we all worked together and many of us became friends. I would definitely encourage anyone to go who has the opportunity.”
Although uncertain of a particular school, Seubert intends to attend college with an interest in Meteorology. Bloch is targeting UW-Madison as a History-major and eventually law school with a focus on Family Law.