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Boys State convention opens up world to local youth

Back from a week at the Boys State convention on the Central Washington University campus in Ellensburg, Alfonso Ramirez said he has a different view of Sunnyside now. "It was an intense experience," said Ramirez. "When we came back, our world had opened up." Ramirez was one of five Sunnyside High School seniors-to-be who attended Evergreen Boys State this year, learning about what it takes to become a political leader. Also at the event was classmate Elijah Pena, who ran for a position as senator, but lost. "I had to go to unemployment," he said. That landed Pena in a position of sergeant-at-arms, making sure attendees went to the correct room and signed in and out as they went. "If someone needed to be found, we checked our paperwork and located them," he said. Meeting new people was the most important part of the experience for him. "You have the chance to open up to people you normally wouldn't talk to," Pena said. Henry Fairbairn, another attendee from Sunnyside, agreed. He was appointed to a county council and learned about solving larger problems involving multiple entities. The contingent from his county earned an award for its problem solving. Fairbairn said he learned an important lesson about meeting people. "The more you talk to people the better position you'll get," he said. Fairbairn said he also learned a lot about government and how it runs. He recommends future attendees enjoy themselves and talk to a lot of different people. Victor Ramos of Sunnyside also attended, and he enjoyed the problem solving aspects of the program. "The last two days they gave us problems and we had to deal with them," he said. "My city, Birch City, had to deal with an 8.9 earthquake." Ramos also took on a role on his county council, and said the council had to solve problems with an airport in need of repair. "The airlines were leaving and taking the jobs with them," he said. "We had to save the jobs." Ramos also agreed that meeting people was a major part of the event. "I got to meet kids from all around the state with different backgrounds and ethnicities," he said. "It gives me a better picture of my community." Also in attendance at the confab was Sunnyside's Eduardo Yanez, who also served on his county council. While three of the boys from Sunnyside had council positions, another won an election and got a different experience. Ramirez was elected to the state house of representatives. He said he learned what a marathon session is like. "Everyone was on edge because there was stuff we didn't agree on," Ramirez said. "We talked for five hours straight. At the end of it we were saying, 'just pass it!'" He said the event helped him with his confidence. Ramirez said he is no longer as frightened of public speaking as he once was. He also enjoyed the speakers at the event, including former state attorney general Rob McKenna and Micah Cawley, the mayor of Yakima. Ramirez said the experience taught him how politics work in the state. Ramos agreed with the sentiment. "It's a great opportunity to learn a lot about politics," said Ramos. "You learn how things are run in the city, county and state."

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