Student participates in political simulation session
Standing in front of a room full of other rising seniors, Parkland student Aryaman Khandelwal, 16, made his opening statement promoting unity between parties and decrying his opponent for the position of governor.
Khandelwal was one of around 300 of Pennsylvania’s rising seniors chosen to attend Keystone Boys’ State, a weeklong political simulation run by the American Legion, where students represent the various aspects of city, county and state governments.
KBS is a completely immersive program with the motto “a week to shape a lifetime.”
Along with the political science focus of the program, leadership experience is a significant benefit of this study of civics: Learning by both observing and doing.
The KBS program has been operating in Pennsylvania for 76 years (KBS suspended for three years during World War II), but they are concerned that there are too many high schools that are unfamiliar with the program and its potential positive, life-changing impact on the lives of its “citizens.”
Students at KBS also had the chance to meet Gov. Tom Wolf as well as Pennsylvania senators and representatives.
Notable alumni from across the nation include former President Bill Clinton, astronaut Neil Armstrong, Gov. Mike Huckabee, singer Bon Jovi, basketball player Michael Jordan, among many others.
On their first night, students were organized into cities and elected a mayor, city council, and senators to represent themselves at higher levels of government.
Students were also assigned a party, Federalist or Nationalist, with predetermined platform.
At this year’s Keystone Boys’ State, the Nationalists had the overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives, but the Federalists maintained a small majority in the Senate.
Throughout the week, students represented their party and city in legislative bodies as they debated bills to be passed.
Khandelwal was elected as a senator from his city and was elected president pro tempore by the Senate.
As the presiding officer of this body, he was responsible for maintaining order and fluency throughout the sessions.
Khandelwal then ran for the Federalist party’s nomination for governor, the highest elected position of the week, and won a majority of his party’s support to move on to the general election.
He then participated in a 1-hour debate with his opponent, Felix Li of Upper Dublin High School, on a wide variety of policy issues including higher education, abortion, gun control, and infrastructure spending.
Khandelwal was widely considered to have won the debate, but with his party holding such a small minority in the overall voter pool, he faced a difficult road ahead.
However, in the general election, Khandelwal prevailed and was elected governor and awarded a $1,000 scholarship by the American Legion.
With his victory, he upheld his promise of bipartisanship and unity among parties by nominating his opponent in the general election, Felix Li, as his Secretary of State and Elections and selecting a bipartisan cabinet.
Later in the week, Khandelwal and his cabinet discussed various bills passed by the House and Senate, and signed off on multiple bills, including one increasing background checks on teachers and one passing relief aid for an unexpected hurricane that had hit the state in the simulation.