While most students take the summer off, Plant City High School seniors Kellie Pernula and Reid Adams will be headed to the Florida State Capitol to learn about government during the Boys and Girls State seminar in June and July. The weeklong program is hosted at Florida State University, where the students will also be staying.
The competitive application and interview process brings hundreds of upcoming high school seniors together. The students will run a mock political campaign to try to secure seats and positions in mock state, county and city governments. From there, the different levels of legislative bodies will pass laws and learn about government in a simulation.
But there’s still time for fun. The Girls State will hold a pep rally, and Boys State will hold a kickball tournament. Both groups will tour the Capitol.
Fresh off an intense national volleyball tournament, 17-year-old Kellie Pernula geared up for another competitive competition — her campaign at Girls State. During the program from June 26 to July 3, Pernula hoped to be chaplain.
“I have a strong faith, and it’s an opportunity that I’m given to show that and be a positive influence on others,” Pernula said.
After being elected, the girls participated in mock legislative sessions. Each student is required to bring a self-drafted bill to the table. Pernula decided to focus on seatbelt safety. She researched her topic and found many children suffer from seatbelt syndrome in which they have internal injuries and suffer ruptures because the seatbelts don’t fit them properly. The law requires children under 5 to be in a carseat.
Pernula found that a more appropriate fit of the seatbelts doesn’t occur until the child reaches 57 inches in height. Her bill revises the under 5-year-old age guideline to a child under 57 inches and 100 pounds. That puts the average child at 12 years old.
“It’s a big difference between 5 and 12,” Pernula said. “A lot of children are smaller and get growth spurts later.”
Although Pernula has always wanted to be a veterinarian, she looked forward to finding out more about the legislative process.
“It’s a way to enrich my knowledge about government,” Pernula said. “I only took American government online, and I think it will be different with actual teachers and the mock government. (I’m excited for) meeting new friends and actually learning about government.”
Reid Adams has his eyes set on a Senate seat in Boys State.
“It’s an important process, writing the bills,” Adams said. “And they have more sway than a house representative.”
Boys State will also have students draft bills that will either be passed or eliminated. The students will break up into groups to brainstorm bills.
Adams has taken two government courses at Plant City High School, including American government in ninth grade and U.S. history. He’s looking forward to continuing his education on the legislative bodies in the U.S. But he’s not sure if he wants to follow that career path.
The cross-country runner is interested in following his father and becoming an engineer. But Adams does want to see the FSU campus.
“(I’m looking forward to) just learning about the college experience and staying in the dorms,” Adams said.
His sister goes to Auburn University, but his stay at FSU might sway him against Auburn or his other top pick, Clemson. First he has to wait until Boys State; the program runs July 6 to July 12.
“I want to practice what I’ve learned,” Adams said.