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UW-Eau Claire to host Badgers Boys State program starting in 2022

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: More than 800 high school students will be on UW-Eau Claire's campus in June 2022 to participate in the annual Badger Boys State civic leadership program.

The annual Badger Boys State civic leadership program for high school students will have a new home on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus beginning in June 2022.

UW-Eau Claire will host the annual weeklong program for Wisconsin students entering their senior year of high school for the first time on June 12-18, 2022. This will be the first of at least three consecutive years at UW-Eau Claire.

“This is a great opportunity for the university,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. “My whole career I’ve really worked to get Boys and Girls State on campuses because I am such a big believer in the impact they have on young people’s lives.

“These are young men who are nominated by their high schools for their leadership, character, good citizenship, and healthy mind and body. These are exactly the kind of students we want to be part of the greater Blugold family.”

Ripon College in southeastern Wisconsin has hosted Badger Boys since 1941. The session was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

Nine campuses this year submitted proposals to host the 2022 Badger Boys State event, with UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stevens Point and Ripon College named as finalists.

Badger Boys State program organizers were impressed with UW-Eau Claire’s ability to connect with interested stakeholders, said Nicholas Schaefer, assistant director of operations for the organization.

UW-Eau Claire’s attention to detail and the excitement from the Eau Claire community made Badger Boys State officials comfortable moving to a new location, Schaefer said. He praised the chancellor, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and Alumni Association, the university’s political science department, Menard Center for Constitutional Studies and the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Putting on a weeklong program with over 800 high school leaders is a tall order, and we feel like the partnerships we can build at UW-Eau Claire will help us improve our program and provide the best possible experience for each of our citizens,” Schaefer said. “UW-Eau Claire has a beautiful campus and incredible community, and we are thrilled to welcome our citizens to the first-ever Badger Boys State at UW-Eau Claire in June.”

Next year’s event is a tremendous opportunity to showcase the campus, said Kyran Hamill, UW-Eau Claire’s camps and conferences manager in University Centers.

“Students will be getting a one-week immersion in UW-Eau Claire,” Hamill said. “It’s an opportunity for us to give a really good introduction into what life is like at UW-Eau Claire.”

During the week, Badger Boys State participants learn how government works by creating their own mock city, county and state governments. Students host a public government “inauguration” one night, which will include the governor, a state Supreme Court justice and other dignitaries. They also host a public tribute to veterans one night.

“We believe that civic leadership can be most effectively learned and developed through active participation and engagement with the governmental process,” Schaefer said. “The next generation of leaders, just like any before them, have immense societal challenges to address and we take seriously our role in helping them develop the education and skills needed to make a positive impact.”

Badger Boys State participants will stay in Karlgaard Towers, eat at Hilltop Center and use UW-Eau Claire’s recreational facilities. Students will have daily classroom activities in Centennial, Hibbard and Schneider halls.

UW-Eau Claire expects to provide at least $10,000 in scholarships for Badger Boys State participants who attend UW-Eau Claire.

UW-Eau Claire’s chancellor long has been a proponent of the Boys and Girls State program models, which are active in 49 states. Schmidt has rich memories of attending Boys State in Minnesota before his senior year of high school.

“For me, it was remarkable,” Schmidt said. “I was always interested in government and an active citizenry in a democracy. I was excited to be around other young men with similar interests.”

Dr. Geoff Peterson, a political science professor and chair of UW-Eau Claire’s political science department, met with the Badger Boys State search team when members visited the university and again during negotiations to discuss what the political science department could do during the week’s sessions. Peterson expects several members of his department to be involved in the week’s activities.

Peterson hopes Badger State Boys participants learn about the value of civic responsibility and how governments operate, calling the move to UW-Eau Claire “absolutely wonderful.”

“Badger Boys State will bring hundreds of high school students to campus that might never have even given us a look when making their college plans,” Peterson said. “For political science and criminal justice, there is the added benefit that many of these students are thinking about careers in public service, so getting them on campus and showing them how strong our programs are can only help our recruiting long term.”