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Paynesville Press - July 14, 2004

Staters practice mock government at camp

By Kayla Welle

Matt Mehr and Lisa Lenzmeier, the current Boy and Girl Staters, described their experience at state camp as an unforgettable learning opportunity.

State camps took place from June 13-19 at St. John's University for boys and at Bethel College for girls. Mehr, the son of Ralph and Ann Mehr, and Lenzmeier, the daughter of Dale and Mary Lenzmeier, will be seniors at Paynesville Area High School this fall.

There were a lot of speakers at state camp, Mehr and Lenzmeier agreed, most of which they really enjoyed. At boys state, Mehr reported, a lot of emphasis was put on the military and how to respect the country and the government. "One speaker," he said, "taught us that we don't have to agree with the government; just be respectful and don't bad talk the nation or its government."

Lenzmeier got the opportunity to listen to Governor Tim Pawlenty, which was pretty cool, she said. Most of the other speakers, which she enjoyed as well, dealt a lot with women in politics.

staters Lenzmeier recalls one speaker who spoke on her experience with moving from Germany to America. "She told us that when she got here and became an American citizen and held her first American flag, she cried," Lenzmeier said.

Matt Mehr and Lisa Lenzmeier attended boys and girls state at St. John's University and at Bethel College in June. Mehr and Lenzmeier will be seniors at PAHS in the fall.

At state camp, a big focus was on mock city, county, and state government procedures. Mehr explained that everyone was divided into cities and had to elect city officials. Mehr acted as a newspaper reporter in the city of Rochester, while Lenzmeier was a part of the city of Mahpi and acted as county treasurer.

Some of the laws that they dealt with at boys state, Mehr said, were "No Child Left Behind" dealing with graduation standards and some Medicare and Social Security laws. Mehr said his group felt that the legislature should not be focusing all of their time and money on Medicare or Social Security but focus more on the younger generations because "we are most vital to the community," he said.

At girls state, Lenzmeier said they worked a lot with laws enforcing stricter penalties for sex offenders.

"The people there were awesome," Mehr said. People were so diverse and accomplished, Mehr said. For example, he met some guys who were quarterbacks of their football team, president of student council, and played the lead role in the one-act play.

Lenzmeier agreed that meeting people at camp was one of the best parts. It was fun learning where everyone was from, she said.

There were personal goals for the community of Paynesville that Mehr made while at camp. One of the many included getting everybody between the ages of 18-34 to vote. According to Mehr, Congressmen and members of the legislature will be more apt to listen to concerns of the younger generation if they all vote.

Mehr said one of the most important lessons that he learned at boys state was from a speaker who assured them that you can screw up in life and still go places and be somebody. Everyone makes mistakes, he said, but one just has to get passed it and keep going. "Nothing is ever set in stone," Mehr added said. He feels that by being at boys state and listening to the speakers he has grown more confident in himself and his future.

Mehr and Lenzmeier were chosen as boy and girl staters for Paynesville in April. The responsibilities of a stater include reading daily announcements at PAHS, giving speeches at Memorial Day and Veteran's Day services, raising and lowering the flag at PAHS, helping with baccalaureate and graduation, and picking staters for next year.

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