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Mr. Hartunian goes to Washington

Delmar teen's mock government trip includes meeting with president

It takes some political acumen to go from state representative to campaign manager for the president to secretary of education, all in a matter of weeks. Unless, of course, you're John Hartunian, who did just that as part of the American Legion's Boys Nation program, a mock government exercise in Washington, D.C., the Delmar teen recently returned from.

Hartunian's trip to Boys Nation started as it does for many of our national representatives: on the state level. He participated in Boys State this June at SUNY Morrisville, where nearly 1,000 participants from around the state met to form a mock state government the last week of July.

There, a panel of American Legion members conducted several rounds of interviews. In the end, Hartunian was one of two teens chosen to represent his state in Washington, D.C.

I was honored when I was selected, then when I learned a little bit more about the Boys Nation program I began to get a bit intimidated, he said. "I thought, 'Wow, these other kids must be incredibly intelligent.'"

That turned out be an accurate assumption, as Hartunian met bright and ambitious teens from 49 states during the weeklong session.

"This was the first time I had met kids from all over the country ... for all of us to fit together into a room and debate these ideas ... was really a great, great experience for me."

In short order, the 98 teens were tasked with forming their own mock government at Marymount University outside of Washington. Hartunian served as campaign manager for a Florida representative who was eventually elected president. Hartunian was appointed education secretary.

The delegates then each drafted their own piece of legislation. Hartunian's dealt with providing financial relief for the families of college students. As an incoming senior at BC High, it's a topic that has a personal connection for him.

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