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Badger Boys State on UW-Eau Claire campus for first time

| Denise Olson (story); Glen Mabie (video)

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire this week welcomed to campus the 79th session of Badger Boys State, a time-honored state civic leadership camp for Wisconsin high school students.

The annual weeklong program is for Wisconsin students entering their senior year of high school. UW-Eau Claire is hosting 718 campers who have been nominated by teachers, counselors and administrators across the state to attend the 100%-sponsored immersive experience in civic engagement and government at the local and state levels.

Previously held at Ripon College, Badger Boys State will spend at least the next three years at UW-Eau Claire as part of an agreement reached in October 2021.

For Dr. Geoff Peterson, professor and chair of UW-Eau Claire's political science department, hosting this camp is both an honor and a tremendous opportunity to showcase all that the university has to offer to hundreds of high school juniors considering their college options.

“These are highly engaged students who are actively seeking not only the universities in their futures but ways to contribute to their communities and state in meaningful ways,” Peterson says, noting that Badger Boys State has a long list of distinguished alumni that includes governors, lieutenant governors, state and national representatives, NASA scientists, CEOs and more.

“Hundreds of these students came from the eastern side of the state and may never have otherwise been looking at UW-Eau Claire at all — they’re here and they’re getting an amazing inside look at this campus.”

Action-packed schedule

The logistics involved in welcoming more than 700 Badger State boys to UW-Eau Claire were coordinated through efforts in both Housing and Residence Life and University Centers, the offices directly charged with accommodating all aspects of the Badger Boys State cohort for their weeklong stay.

According to Nicole Rindone, coordinator of major events and conferences for University Centers, much of the groundwork for hosting this camp has been in the works at various administrative levels for over a year, but the daily “nuts and bolts” of a successful camp experience has been a concerted group effort on the ground.

“In cooperation with the folks in housing and in our enrollment management units, we are getting the boys to where they need to be, feeding them, making all the room reservations for their sessions and answering their questions about campus,” she says.

“The CA staff members in housing have done a ton of work preparing the rooms in the residence halls for all these students,” Rindone says of the camp assistants who are what she calls the “eyes and ears” for the resident camp, working the front desk of Towers North and throughout the general campus grounds during the week.

Rindone says that despite the full slate of sessions, campers can explore parts of upper campus for their two hours of designated sports and recreation time each day.

“They have access to McPhee, Simpson Field, Towers recreation field, the volleyball courts, tennis courts — pretty much all the available facilities have been made available to them, so that’s a great part of the overall experience,” Rindone says.

Students and families also are invited to take part in an official campus tour and admissions visit on Saturday, June 18, after the closing ceremonies.

“We have nearly 40 families signed up for that and Visit Eau Claire has provided maps and welcome bags of items about downtown Eau Claire for those interested in checking out the city this weekend or on a future visit,” Rindone says.

Camp staff paying it forward

For first-time Badger Boys State staff member and 2019 camp alumnus John Dienger, the chance to give back to a program that had a strong positive influence on him while also helping high school students experience UW-Eau Claire and take in the valuable lessons in leadership has been rewarding.

“I’ve heard from a lot of the guys already just how pretty UW-Eau Claire is,” says the Chippewa Falls native. “This campus has so much to offer, in addition to a fantastic education — it’s great that these students are here seeing it all for themselves, that this part of the state also has amazing higher education opportunities.”

Dienger says he is proud to be part of a program that plays an essential role in society today.

“It’s more important than ever to understand how our political process works,” he says. “Badger Boys State does a fantastic job of showing students that they can impact the world around them and make the changes in communities that they want to see.”