submitted by – Crystal L. Booth
EAU CLAIRE — Badger Boys State held its 80th session at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire on June 11-17. Two local upcoming seniors from Glenwood City High School attended this year’s event, and a former Badger Boys State attendee and 2023 graduate of GCHS served as a volunteer counselor.
Will Standaert (parents Brent and Sally Standaert), along with Steven Booth (parents Steve and Crystal Booth) were attendees, while Nick Hierlmeier (parents Gordy and Angela Hierlmeier and 2023 GCHS Graduate) was a first-year counselor for the session.
Badger Boys State, and its counterpart Badger Girls State which is sponsored through the American Legion Auxiliary, is a program of the American Legion Department of Wisconsin, with local chapters of the American Legion sponsoring young men throughout Wisconsin.
This year almost 900 were in attendance. Sherri Hicks, Badger Boys State Program Coordinator, The American Legion Dept. of Wisconsin, shared that Will Standaert was sponsored by Curry-Ainsworth American Legion Post 168 in Glenwood City, and Steven Booth was sponsored by Harley-Davidson American Legion Post 400 in Germantown, WI. She also indicated that each sponsor pays $400 per student sponsored. They can indicate which schools or towns or counties that they want to sponsor a student from, or they can sponsor a student(s) from anywhere in the state.
Throughout the week, participants become citizens of one of 27 cities and one of nine counties. In this simulation government setting, citizens elect public officials at the city, county and state level, as well as run for office themselves. The young leaders learn the fundamentals of civics and develop interpersonal skills and confidence needed to become leaders in their own communities. They also have time to attend various classes on a wide array of civic topics. Free time is spent making connections and friendships that can last a lifetime. During the week there are opportunities to play in the band, choir, volleyball, frisbee, and other sports for rec time.
Staff members, such as counselors like Nick Hierlmeier, are volunteers from across the United States that take time out of their busy schedules to help these upcoming leaders develop the education and skills they need to make a positive impact in their communities and future. Many have been Badger Boys State citizens themselves. The longest serving volunteer honored this year has been with BBS 50 years, Rev. Tom Skrenes, Bishop ELCA.
Both Will and Steven indicated it was a “week of a lifetime”, Nick mentioned what a wonderful program it is and how he hoped more people learn about it. Several local former Badger Boys reached out to the participants and their families during the week, letting them know what a good experience it had been for them, how much they learned, and the friendships made.
Thursday evening of Badger Boys Week, parents were invited to attend a special Inaugural Ceremony, where the 2023 BBS State elected officials were sworn in. Governor Tony Evers was in attendance, in addition to Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley who did the swearing in, and UWEC Chancellor James C. Schmidt. For more information, please visit https://badgerboysstate.org.