May 27, 2018
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Students from Hampden Academy, John Bapst elected as Dirigo governors

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Two high school students — a girl from Hampden Academy and a boy from John Bapst Memorial High School — have been elected as Dirigo governors of Boy State and Girls State.

Molly Jones, 17, of Hampden was elected at the 64th annual American Legion Auxiliary Girls State program, a five-day workshop held last week at Husson University in Bangor.

Jones also has been selected to go to the weeklong Girls Nation in Washington, D.C., later this month.

Aaron Ortiz, 17, of Orrington, was elected at the 63rd annual American Legion Dirigo Boys State held last week at Thomas College in Waterville.

Ortiz is the first John Bapst student to earn the title of Dirigo governor, he was told.

The juniors were honorary citizens of the state of Dirigo during the five-day workshops, and held mock government sessions, became candidates and organized campaigns.

They also debated issues facing Maine, using parliamentary procedures, and wrote legislation to learn how to become effective community leaders.

Boys State attendees discussed “gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, and we also talked about taxes and alternative energy and stuff like that,” Ortiz said.

Jones and Ortiz had completely different campaign strategies.

Jones was laid back and didn’t write any speeches. She said her goal was to “keep everyone involved.”

“I didn’t make a single campaign sign and I didn’t have a slogan,” she said. “If I saw someone sitting by themselves, I went over and talked to them. That was my way.”

Ortiz, who is a member of his school’s Student Senate, was more active in his campaigning. He was elected chairman of the mock town of Lincoln and was elected the state chairman for his political party.

“A lot of people saw my face and I got the governor nomination pretty easily,” he said.

Both governors said they were impressed with the caliber of the speakers at their workshops.

For Jones, the speech by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins inspired her the most, and for Ortiz, meeting Gov. John Baldacci was a high point.

“I met him right before [his speech] and he didn’t act like a politician,” Ortiz said.

Baldacci ran for governor of Boys State when he was in high school against 19 other candidates and did not win. The governor told that story and another about how “he wanted to dig a tunnel to Girls State,” Ortiz recalled.

Jones, who is president of Hampden Academy’s computer club and involved in the school’s drama club, works at Specialty Sweets in Bangor and aspires to own a bakery business.

Ortiz plays football and basketball and is interested in math and science, and someday hopes to become an engineer or doctor.

Both said running for political office is something they may consider down the road.

At the Boys State, two Dirigo state senators and two alternates were selected to head to the Boys Nation gathering in Washington on July 17. Evan Arbour of Winthrop and Tyler Washburn of Bowdoin are the selected senators, and Reid Douty of Cape Elizabeth and Zachery Shaw of Woolwich are the selected alternates.

Jones and Katie Zema of South Portland, who is designated as the Outstanding Girl, were selected to go to Girls Nation, to be held July 17-24 at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md.

“They are required to take a bill or resolve with them,” said Nora Thombs, director of Dirigo Girls State since 1997 and American Legion Auxiliary staff member for 50 years. “Last year’s bill that came [from] Maine was one of the only ones that made it all the way through.”

In addition to their legislative forums, attendees will visit the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, the White House and other memorials in the Washington area, the American Legion Auxiliary’s website states.

“Their visit to Capitol Hill includes meetings with their respective senators and representatives [and] a highlight of the week is the opportunity to meet the President of the United States,” it states.

While in the nation’s capital, “they’ll be working on the national agenda and on electing a president,” Thombs said.

Jones is scheduled to go to Portland today to meet with Zema to work on a bill proposal.

“I have an idea for a bill for agriculture or genetically modified foods,” and Zema wants to write a bill dealing with hate crimes, Jones said, adding the two will decide which avenue to take at Thursday’s meeting.

The bill will be “something we want to see changed,” she said.

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