Over the summer, Northwood students participated in the American Legion California Boys’ State and Girls’ State programs, which aim to teach students the basic principles of American government through mock elections and political duties.
Seniors Viren Abhyankar, David Choi and Daniel Luo participated in Boys’ State, which took place at Sacramento State University from June 16-23, and senior Natasha Ravinand participated in Girls’ State, which took place at Claremont McKenna College from June 25-30.
“There were around 500 girls from all over California, each from a different high school and [with] a different background,” Ravinand said. “Some of us were ASB presidents, and others were decorated athletes, but we were all politically aware and active.”
At Boys’ State, participants had to get donations and signatures from other citizens to be put on the ballot, then give a speech for a primary election followed by a general election.
“The best way to explain the program is that it was a mock government at the cities, counties and state level,” Choi said. “Therefore, the entire time was spent running campaigns and actually engaging in the political process.”
Abhyankar was elected governor, the highest position in the mock government, Choi was elected state treasurer and Luo was picked as Abhyankar’s chief of staff after being elected county judge. Abhyankar describes being elected governor as surreal.
“Running for governor taught me an immense amount about how to develop a policy platform and how to campaign for myself as a candidate,” Abhyankar said.
After the election, the boys had to pass a mock budget for the state.
At Girls’ State, Ravinand ran for the position of Tory Party leader.
“I joined the Tory Party, which campaigned on a progressive agenda and advocated for left-leaning policies, such as LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, environmental protections and prison reform,” Ravinand said.
The Boys’ State and Girls’ State programs are yearly events open to rising seniors. The school representatives are recommended by teachers and advisors, and interviewed by Legion representatives before selection. The participants of the programs say they learned a lot from the experience.
“I bonded with some of the most accomplished young women from all over California and made some of my best friends for life,” Ravinand said. “It was a very positive experience and one that I’m grateful to have had.”