Caleb Merrell, who will start his senior year at Bryan High School in the fall, is getting an inside look at how the government runs as one of two students from Texas to participate in Boys Nation.
American Legion’s Boys Nation program brings two student senators from each state to Washington, D.C. to set up a mock government for a week.
As part of the national convention, the students will tour national monuments, meet with their senators and, potentially, the president, Caleb Merrell’s dad, Brian Merrell said.
Each of the senators will run for different positions within their mock federal government, and they also will discuss the bills each senator prepared to determine if any can become law.
“They’re trying to replicate as much as possible the political system and the way that it functions and the way our government’s obviously run,” Brian said.
This is the second year in a row the Bryan-College Station area has had a representative at Boys Nation. Aabid Razvi from College Station’s A&M Consolidated High School attended in 2018 and was elected as vice president.
Caleb’s journey began in June when he and 1,200 high school boys from throughout the state traveled to Austin for the annual Boys State convention.
For Caleb, it was a surprise to be selected because, even though he is going into his senior year, the 2018-2019 school year was his first in Bryan.
“God aligned it for us to move to Bryan, because my old school didn’t do this at all,” he said. “We didn’t do any Boys State, so it was my first time hearing about it, so we’re just feeling blessed that I had the opportunity to do it.”
Then, to be selected as one of the top 16 to be interviewed for Boys Nation and to make each subsequent cut to be one of the top two representing Texas was even more of a surprise.
“I just kind of looked at my dad, and we just stared for about a good solid 20 seconds like, ‘This is happening now,’ ” Caleb said.
With only a very distant understanding of Boys State and Boys Nation before this year, he said the entire thing has been a learning experience.
During Boys State, Merrell was one of seven students from Bryan and about a dozen from the Bryan-College Station area. He was voted as a state chairman, which meant he was in charge of about 600 boys and had to lead the party’s meetings.
It was the best position he could have because, he said, “I love people; I love working with people.”
Brian Merrell, who serves as an executive director of school leadership for the Bryan school district, said it was a counselor at Boys State who suggested his son run for the chairman position. As chairman, Caleb had to conduct every party meeting during the convention.
Caleb’s family, with biological and adopted siblings, has given him experiences with diversity and working with people of different backgrounds, Brian Merrell said.
“He’s just very comfortable around people, and he loves them,” he said. “It kind of comes out, and inherently God’s given him the gift of leadership, so it’s been fun.”
Even if he had not done anything besides attend Boys State, Brian Merrell said, that experience on its own would have been enough for his son.
The appeal of Boys State and his role as chairman was that it put Caleb in a position to meet the other Boys State students. Those connections, Caleb said, are what he hopes to continue establishing in Washington, D.C. through Boys Nation.
“I just think that being able to meet everyone would be a really amazing opportunity and learning to work together as a team is vital,” he said.
As he prepares for his senior year and then beyond high school, Caleb said, the experience will give him a behind-the-scenes look at the political system if he decides to study political science at Texas A&M. Outside of academics, he can benefit from the experience also because he knows he wants to hold a leadership position at any job he enters, whether it is in politics or not.
“There’s just a broadening of opportunities that you become enlightened to, so you start to see the world in a little bit different light, and so I think the opportunity to meet new people and to see how the world and government and the experiences and the exposure is just remarkable,” Brian Merrell said. “Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t duplicate this process for him. You’re getting to meet a bunch of incredible kids all over the nation, and the way the world is now, they’re all friends on Instagram. All of a sudden, the world has become smaller.”