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The City Journals

Corner Canyon Students Learn Civics Firsthand at Boys State

Oct 07, 2015 11:14AM ● By Bryan Scott

Dallas Karren was one of four students from Corner Canyon to attend Boy’s State. Photo courtesy Sharyle Karren

By Julie Slama

Draper - Last spring, Corner Canyon student Dallas Karren heard about Boys State on the school announcements and thought it sounded “cool,” so he talked to his counselor about applying for the week-long session.

The American Legion Boys State-Utah program is part of the country’s summer youth camp designed to develop leadership and promote civic responsibility in young men.  A similar camp run by the American Legion Auxiliary is designed for young women.

After filling out an application and being interviewed, Dallas, along with three other Corner Canyon students, John Andersen, Jordan Burnett and Jonathan Spencer-Priebe, attended Boys State June 8-12 at Weber State University between their junior and senior years at high school.

At the camp, the high school students had a chance to learn how government works as well as the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, Bob Jones, American Legion-Utah Boys State president, said.

“The students will run a full city government and elect a mayor, city council and a police chief and govern themselves,” Jones said.  “We’re learning that civics is no longer taught in school, but it’s important that kids know how the governmental process works and their responsibilities as citizens.”

Dallas ran for police chief in the made-up town of Schwartz City, named after his counselor’s surname.  There were 60 volunteer staff for 231 boys who came from throughout the state, Jones said.

Police stuff is really cool so I ran, but didn’t win,” Dallas said, who in real life is in his second year with the Draper City Police Explorers. “I became an officer and volunteer firefighter.  Being a police officer was pretty fun.  I’d walk around at night with two other guys with our flashlights after lights were out.  When we caught some guys with their light on, we got to bust in and turn off their lights and gave them a warrant so they had to go before the city judge.”

Jones said that during the week, students will learn about each level of government and have speakers who share their experiences with them.

Among this year’s speakers were Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, U.S. Representative Rob Bishop and the chairmen of the Democratic and Republican state parties.

“We asked the students to write three essays during the week.  They could write about what they learned about a presenter’s speech, issues each party faces, patriotism and what they learned during the week,” Jones said.

Dallas said he was glad to hear what these speakers had to say.

“It was really unique to hear what these people were saying so I got a better understanding of how our government functions.  It was great to speak to them about current events and civic duty.  I definitely learned a lot,” he said.

Dallas, who is contemplating a career in criminal or financial law, also is considering politics and said one day, he may run for office.  In the meantime, he and other Boys State participants earned three credit hours at college in political science.

The students also met many men who served in the military, including Darrell Loveland, who has helped with the Boys State-Utah program for 72 years, and 45-year volunteer Casey Kunimura, who was interned with other Japanese-Americans during World War II before being allowed to serve in the 442nd regiment.

“I have a lot of respect for these veterans. For example, (Kunimura) was in one of the most decorated units of World War II when most Americans didn’t understand his loyalty, but he doesn’t want to be called a hero.  He is Utah’s representative in a statue that (was) in front of the Veterans War Museum in Branson, Missouri,” Dallas said.

In addition to meeting government and military leaders, Jones said students get to make friends with students all over the state.

Dallas said he spent a lot of time talking to his Lehi roommate and getting to know other students.

“I met a lot of great kids there and plan to stay in touch with them,” he said.  “I’ve definitely become more motivated and want to stay in touch with issues, vote and do my part in our community.”

During the week, Jones said the students elect student senators to represent the state at Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. as well as present $1 million in scholarships to attendees.