By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes
In the scant month since finishing his junior year at McNary High School, Ryan Edsall has taken a stab at solving the problem of homelessness, attempted to alleviate the strains on the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, been elected a senator and is on his way to meeting President Barack Obama.
He also became a candidate for potential acceptance to the Annapolis Naval Academy where he hopes to study and start on the path to becoming a U.S. Marine.
What have you done with your summer vacation?
In June, Edsall, 17, took part in the annual Oregon Boys State Leadership Academy with local sponsorship by the Keizer Elks. While there, he got a crash course in civic engagement trying to solve the logistical and social woes of a hypothetical 51st state.
“There was a resource management problem and we had to figure out how to connect a highway to our cities and protect local resources at the same time,” Edsall said. “We also had to find a way to aid the homeless, especially those in kindergarten through high school.”
Edsall’s group decided to build apartments that would be free so long as the residents attended job preparation classes. Once the residents completed the program they would be connected with a counselor who would help them find a job and keep a job while a child care center provided accountability for the student-age children and teens.
In the early days of the academy, Edsall was identified as one of 10 participants who would vie for the title of senator and advancement to Boys Nation later this month. That pool was narrowed to four possible candidates by camp organizers, and Edsall took part in a public debate in front of the the whole academy.
“Debate was about Syria and pretty high-level. It was a good debate, I’d like to think,” Edsall said.
After that, he was elected by the rest of the academy students to be an Oregon Senator and earned the right to attend the national conference where he expects to meet President Obama. For those with a bit longer memory, Boys Nation is the same program in which former president Bill Clinton once met then-president John F. Kennedy.
Edsall will join 97 other senators from around the country in visiting historical sights and addressing even more complicated problems as part of the national delegation.
Even when the camp was over, Edsall’s work wasn’t done. He had to prepare a bill he plans to submit during the proceedings, and he chose to target the current woes of the Veteran’s Health Administration.
“I wanted to relieve some of the pressure on the Veteran’s Affairs department and give veteran’s the option of going to a private health care providers if they had waited more than 14 days for VA services. The expenses would be covered by VA aside from a co-pay,” Edsall said.
Taking on big issues like the one he’s faced in the past month have given him a new perspective on civic leadership.
“Solving these issues is very complicated because someone is going to get upset and someone’s going to get left out,” Edsall said. “ As challenging as it is, it’s very rewarding. It’s great to help others through stuff like this.”
He plans to use some of what he’s learned in his role as president of the McNary chapter of the National Honor Society chapter when he returns to school this fall, and in a bid to become Boys Nation president later this month.
“It’s helped in learning how to bring people together and connect them around a problem we can solve,” Edsall said.
Asked where his energy and enthusiasm for public service arose from, Edsall thinks on it only for a moment.
“My father and grandpa. They were both in the U.S. Navy and they’ve both taught me how to set goals and helped me achieve them,” he said.
Ryan is the son of Keizer Police Det. Vaughn Edsall.