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How a Teen Can Learn Civic Leadership

By Kristin Hamerski
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #54, 2003.

Kristin tells of the rewards for homeschoolers who get involved in government.

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Kristin Lee Hamerski

Kristin singing at the opening of the Alaskan Legislature
"The land of the free, and the home of the brave." As I sang those words the true meaning of freedom, America, and life came streaming back to me. I was in complete awe as I opened the 23rd Alaska State Legislature! I sung the National Anthem and the Alaska Flag Song, by the special invitation of Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman. As I stood there I realized, "I am here because of the work of millions of selfless acts of courage, chivalry and patriotism." That fact in and of itself is enough to make you stop and think... what kind of government can entitle its citizens to freedom for over 225 years and how can we help preserve this precious freedom for the future?

In one word I can answer this question, vigilance. Thomas Jefferson said that, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." I believe this with all my heart and that is why I have become involved with my government. And that is why I believe you should become involved in government, too.

As homeschoolers it is sometimes hard to find a way to get involved with government. In the public schools they have many student government classes. This, however, should not deter those that are eager for knowledge. I suggest starting your own Homeschool Student Government Club. This can be accomplished through 4-H or done independently. 4-H (www.4-H.org) has a wonderful leadership program.

You can also try contacting local officials and ask for tours. In most cases they are very happy to share what they know.

Another possible avenue to consider is volunteering for a political campaign. I have done this all my life and found it very rewarding. As a young child I would wave signs at election time, and always enjoyed going to campaign headquarters of various officials to watch the votes come in. I've even ridden in the Fourth of July parade supporting a candidate. I am not old enough to run for public office or even vote, but in a small way I am helping to support those ideas that I feel strongly for.

Youth vote 2002 group
Besides campaigns I have been active in Student Government as President. This has taught me unending lessons. Being a leader is more that telling people what to do. Leadership is kind direction with mutual respect, working towards a common goal together! I have gone to the Alaska Association of Student Governments Conference. I found this to be an exciting experience because I was able to meet like-minded students from all over my state. I found that this gave me a better ability to view the picture of government as a whole.

In my city, Anchorage, there is a program at the lunch hour, once a week, for adults and teens alike to get together and learn about our city government called the Muniversity (www.muni.org/mayor/muniversity.cfm). Your town might have a program akin to this, or if it doesn't, you can always ask them to establish one.

For homeschoolers in Alaska there is another wonderful opportunity called, Spirit of Youth (www.spiritofyouth.org). I am on the Teen Action Council (TAC) for this organization, which works to recognize positive youth community involvement and promotes civic knowledge and involvement among youth.

Kristin holding the Spirit of Youth Award, with Anchorage Assembly Chairman Dick Traini
As a TAC member I was a host for the first, live Youth Gubernatorial debate. The first of its kind in the USA, this youth-led debate allowed Alaska's gubernatorial candidates to address issues concerning youth. The debate was aired on TV, live all around the state!

I also worked as a Youth Vote 2002 Official, tabulating all the statewide youth votes at Election Central. Being in the midst of election night was truly a memory I will always have with me. I had campaigned hard for the candidates that supported my beliefs and they won! This is truly a wonderful lesson for life; never give up on your beliefs. As the old saying goes if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything. These kinds of exciting opportunities may be available to you in your city or state. All you have to do is look!

How can you receive recognition for your dedication to America? There are many unique possibilities; you just need to find what works best for you. If you volunteer in civic type activities, you may be recognized by many different organizations that give out Citizenship Awards to youth demonstrating true strength of character and conviction towards the preservation of the freedoms we hold so dear. I was honored to win the Spirit of Youth Outstanding Participation in Business and Government Award! Additionally cities, counties, and states may also give these awards. The key is to be involved. Ask your local government offices if they have any such awards. Figure out how you might qualify and then continue on to the nomination process.

There are also volunteer teen councils and groups that promote civics, which can be a wonderful way to get started in the political arena. Such organizations sometimes even offer government awards. Ask around and see if any teen councils are available where you are. If not, start one. Never be afraid to forge into new territory! That's what our Founding Fathers did when they created the American republic.

Kristin with Governor Frank Murkowski at the Gubernatorial debate
For girls who love to write there is still another option. The National Foundation of Women Legislators and National Rifle Association (www.nra.org) co-sponsor an essay contest. I entered this particular contest and was in the top 30 picked for the nation to receive recognition. The essay topic from last year was "Freedom and Security in a Decade of Danger." My essay was judged on my knowledge of our nation's three founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. This proved to be an excellent learning experience on reaching as well as presenting my beliefs on America!

Besides awards there are other phenomenal opportunities. Many cities and states have internships that youth can participate in. I have been asked to be a page for our Legislature when I turn 18. Contact your local representative or state office and see if any government officials offer this. Practice testifying on issues that affect you on a local, state, or even national level. This way you get to meet all of your representatives and address the issues that are important to you. I first testified on my fifth birthday!

During my year as Miss Alaska Junior National Teen-Ager I was honored to attend President Bush's post 9/11 address at Elmendorf Air Force Base. His speech both moved and inspired me to become more active in America and in American government. That experience was truly one of the highlights of my year, and of my life.

In the end, I think you will find the journey of protecting and preserving your country's freedom to be more than an award here and there. You will find it to be a part of you; true rewards can often be intangible! Just remember that in your search for awards and success that you never lose track of what really matters, faith, in God, and the freedoms He has given us in America.

The founding father and first President of our country, George Washington, believed that our nation's happiness depends on two pillars, religion and morality. As an American I hope to hold to the ideals that the founding fathers set down. I plan to run for political office when I am old enough (vote Kristin Hamerski for United States President in 2024!), and I would encourage everyone to become involved in government. You don't have to run for office, you could simply help run a campaign or even just try to get people out to vote. Each day remember why you have the freedom you do, thank God, and go out and make a difference!

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