While Hasani Hayden represented a “senator” during the recent American Legion Boys Nation event, he considered what kind of bill to write. He thought of ways to best help youth in trouble with the law get back on track for college and careers.
Hasani, who will soon begin his senior year at Kelloggsville High School, created the “Successful Youth Alternative Act” for the simulated congressional session. The bill would allow young people convicted of a nonviolent crimes to opt out of jail sentencing and instead utilize rehabilitation and counseling services and job readiness programs.
While his act failed to make it to the floor for a vote at the event, which follows the structure and function of federal government including hearings on bills written by the boys, Hasani spoke from the heart about why giving young people a second chance is important.
“I see a lot of kids I went to elementary and middle school with who are the same age as I am, going to juvenile or being tried as adults,” said Hasani, 17. “I wish they could have a chance to get on the right track and be productive.”
Government Up Close
Hasani was one of two Michigan delegates selected based on leadership skills, academic record and activity to attend American Legion Boys Nation in July at Marymount University, Arlington, Va.
At the June state competition, he was among 98 high school student representatives and just one of nine participants selected to interview with a panel of American legionnaires for a national spot. He was one of two selected as primary delegates for Boys Nation.
Hasani’s desire to make a difference was what struck high school civics teacher Katie Baechler and the reason she recommend him for the American Legion Boys State, a program started by the American Legion in 1935. The state program took place at Northwood University, in Midland.
“Hasani is one of the few students in my career that I have seen be passionate and up-to-date on politics at such a young age.
He enriches classroom discussion and debate with this knowledge,” she said. “In addition, he also pushes his classmates to be better, by demonstrating how important it is to have a voice in our government today.”
The political-savvy teenager, who penned a book titled “Kid’s Letters to President Obama” in sixth grade, said he’s always had an interest in community involvement. For Boys Nation, he spent a week engaged in lectures, forumsand touring Washington, D.C.’s institutions, memorials and historical sites. A highlight was meeting President Barack Obama and singing him “Happy Birthday” with other program participants, Hasani said.
A number of Boys Nation graduates, including former President Bill Clinton and Senator Max Baucus, have been elected to public office.
Hasani, the son of Paul and Glenda Hayden, plans to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, to focus on finance and economics. He hopes to become an accountant and financial manager.
“I think the biggest thing Boys Nation taught me was to go out and give back to your community. Coming back to Kelloggsville my senior year, I really want to leave my footprint, to do something,” he said.
On the Right Track
Hasani is vice president of the National Honor Society and plans to promote opportunities outside the classroom to get students on career paths and involved in job shadow, internships.
He also serves as president of the Kent Career Technical Center National Technical Honor Society and is a member of the Principal Leadership Team at KCTC. He is president of the City of Wyoming Teen Council, a model and contributor for the peer-to-peer education program Pure Passion for Fashion, a mentor for D.A. Blodgett’s Big Brother Big Sister program and site coordinator for KidsGames at Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, in Grand Rapids Public Schools.
One thing that became evident to Hasani in Washington, D.C., as he met other inspired young people: His generation has much to offer.
“The future of America does look bright. We definitely have a lot of great minds,” he said.