Rising South Carroll seniors could be future rising political stars

Rising South Carroll seniors could be future rising political stars
Matthew Geiger, left, and Andrew Zirkle, both 17 and rising seniors at South Carroll High School, attended the American Legion's Boys State this summer and were there elected as Maryland's two senators for Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

For rising South Carroll High School seniors and best friends Andrew Zirkle and Matthew Geiger, politics has always held an admittedly geeky fascination.

It, in some ways, started with a game their freshman year.


“On Instagram, there was this community of people around the same age as us and they would simulate government,” Geiger said. “Drew and I decided to create our own freshman year. It was called American Government Simulation and we had probably 200 kids or so participating in that.”

More recently, however, the two friends have taken their interest in politics and policy a little further — all the way to Washington, D.C.

In June, Geiger and and Zirkle first participated in the American Legion’s Boys State program, held in June at McDaniel College in Westminster, and were from there sent to the Boys Nation program held in Washington in July.

The programs are both real-life simulations of government, where youths set up their own mock governments to learn how civil institutions work, according to Rick Dye, Boys State chairman for American Legion Gold Star Post 191 in Mount Airy.

“It’s really set up to have them living together at McDaniel College for an entire week, learning how the state functions, performing the functions of the state, and then two of them at the end of that get elected as senators,” he said. “Then they do the same thing at a federal level.”

Post 191 raises the funds, about $350 per student, so young men such as Geiger and Zirkle can attend the programs at no cost to themselves, Dye said.

At Boys State, about 170 young men formed their own “cities” and elected mayors, a governor, and a senior and junior senator to send to the Boys Nation program, and Geiger and Zirkle were thrilled with the experience.

“A lot of older people are frustrated with our generation and are concerned about what’s going to happen when our generation grows up and we’re the next leaders who are in office. I actually kind of share that concern,” Zirkle said. “I got my faith restored because when I went there, it was really an experience where people were able to compromise and come together.”

Geiger and Zirkle won election to mayor of their respective cities at Boys State, and then hit the debate stage in the contest for senator.

“I really enjoyed that and I think [debating] was one of my favorite moments of all of Boys State,” Geiger said.

“We won the primaries and made it to the general election and we won the popular vote, so we ended up being elected to senate,” Zirkle added. “That automatically guaranteed that we would be able to attend Boys Nation — it’s only two per state, so we were the only two attendees from Maryland.”

It was a whole different experience from Boys State, per both Geiger and Zirkle, not least because they lost their respective primary races, Zirkle for vice president and Geiger for president.

“I personally believe I learned a lot more from losing in Boys Nation,” Geiger said. “It’s harder to take something away from an experience where you are winning.”

“The people who were at national were just brilliant, everyone there is just incredibly smart. Going through the senate simulations was incredibly enriching,” Zirkle added. “Even though neither of us were nominees for president or vice president, just watching that process play out was pretty fun as well.”


Now that the experiment in youth-run government is over, and their senior year of high school is about to start, both young men are thinking of college and future careers, in economics and politics, though that’s not to say they haven’t gotten a start already. In their sophomore year, the two launched 71 Republic, a political media company.

“The 71 Republic is a real-life company; it’s an LLC in Maryland and has about 40 to 50 high schoolers writing for it around the world,” Geiger said.

And Geiger’s political consulting group, Geiger Green LLC, has already been involved in local politics.

“There was a mayoral election in Mount Airy last year and I was the campaign manager for the [Ben] Greenstein campaign,” Geiger said.

Both Geiger and Zirkle would like to run for office one day, they said, and so Zirkle is already researching colleges in the Washington area, hoping to make connections in the world of public policy.

Geiger is admittedly a little less organized about it.

“I’m just going to a college, have a good time and study economics and then from there I will see where it goes,” he said.