The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

Hudson Woods throws his arms out after a play before getting into position
Hudson Woods climbs to new heights after standout sophomore season
Jonathan Jones, Sports Writer • May 18, 2024
Joshua Velasquez committed to serving his country in the U.S. Army.
Beyond basic
Margaret Edmonson, Adviser • May 17, 2024
Sydney Rakowitz will study education and training and music at the University of Incarnate Word.
Seniors sign to continue athletic, non-athletic careers
Valley Ventana, Staff • May 16, 2024
Boy Scouts of America announced on May 7 the organizations name will change to Scouting America on the organizations 115th birthday Feb. 8, 2025. Photo by JV via
Boy Scouts changing name after 115 years
Grayson Cook, Staff writer • May 15, 2024
The top 15 students in the senior class receive special recognition at graduation on May 22 due to their hard work throughout high school. 
Graphic by Alex Whelchel via Canva
Profile: Top 15 seniors
Alex Whelchel, Managing Editor • May 13, 2024

Row-en to D.C.: Senior selected for Boys Nation

Senior Rowen Hamilton becomes the first student in the district to ever get selected for Boys Nation. Photo via Rowen Hamilton
Senior Rowen Hamilton becomes the first student in the district to ever get selected for Boys Nation. Photo via Rowen Hamilton

Senior Rowen Hamilton doesn’t even know where he wants to go to college, but he’s already passing bills for the United States government. Well, kind of.

This summer, Hamilton was one of two boys in Texas selected to go to Boys Nation, a civics program for graduated high school juniors in Washington D.C.

Hamilton meets with senator Ted Cruz at Boys Nation. Photo via Rowen Hamilton.

“It’s hard to summarize because it really is so holistically challenging in so many ways,” Hamilton said. “You write speeches, assign legislation, perform executive functions of government and work together with people in your age group to create government in a way that isn’t emulated anywhere else.”

The process of getting selected for Boys’ Nation begins at Boys’ State. First, students are interviewed at their high school; then, the American Legion selects the students they want to move on to state.

“From the Boys’ state pool, which is about 800-900 kids, there was a panel of people who selected 15 or so kids who had achieved high ranking positions or some sort of leadership,” Hamilton said. “Within that 800, the panel interviews you and then on the second to last day we were announced to go to Nation.”

When the two students were announced to go to Nation, Hamilton couldn’t believe it.

“It’s not to say I was surprised because I didn’t feel qualified, but there were a lot of great people I met at Boys’ State who I would have felt adequately represented by had they went,” Hamilton said. “I would’ve been fully understanding [if I were not chosen] because that collection of men was incredible. It’s hard to put into words how much I appreciated their influence on me, and I just feel honored I got to represent them in DC.”

Although Hamilton was shocked, his debate coach Jonathan McKinley knew he had what it took to participate in Boys Nation.

“I can’t say I was surprised [that he got chosen],” McKinley said. “I was exhilarated that he was able to outstretch his wings and be as successful as he was.”

When Hamilton joined debate freshman year, McKinley had never seen a student quite like him. 

“I think that first and foremost he cares about what he does here at school, and he cares about whatever he involves himself in,” he said. “Beyond that he tries to make it not only a good experience for himself,  but for everyone around him. He’s a teacher in the sense that he helps others learn what he knows. He’s engaging, he’s funny, he does a lot of things for the class, specifically my debate team.”

Hamilton meets Chip Roy at Boys Nation. Photo via Rowen Hamilton.

McKinley’s not the only one to notice Rowen’s innate sense of leadership and intelligence though. Senior Jada Cano, who’s been in debate with Hamilton since freshman year, was quick to point out these qualities.

“For one, he is by far the most intelligent and sophisticated speaker in the classroom, but he’s also a great mentor for younger individuals,” Cano said. “I know that from him teaching me bits here and there I’ve been able to grow as an individual.”

At Nation, Hamilton used his leadership skills to navigate multiple elected positions. He began by running for president of his party and lost by a small margin of 24-26.

“Beyond that, I was the chairman of the environment committee, immigration and foreign affairs committee [and] intelligence committee,” Hamilton said. “I was the chairman of a number of committees because I was elected to represent the interests of all these different legislative type things.”

Through this experience, Hamilton learned a lot, but what stuck with him the most was the best way to resolve a conflict.

“Asking honest questions is really the best way to get to the root of a disagreement with somebody,” he said. “I found that there were people who would actively try to attack you in conversation and then there were people who were genuinely curious in where you’re coming from. People [who] were curious [and] open minded, but also had an intellectual rigor to them, those were the people who succeeded in Nation.”

Along with debate, Hamilton has been a member of theater since middle school. McKinley feels as though his success in debate goes hand-in-hand with his experience in theater.

“He’s been a part of my debate team for four years, so kind of by default his successes outside of debate were a part of [debate], or that he’s representing us as well,” he said. “He’s the lead in a lot of the drama plays and they’re competitive. I know academically he does incredible. There’s a lot to be proud of what he’s accomplished.”

Though he’s uncertain of his future still, Hamilton knows that his experience at Boys Nation was one that will stay with him forever. Whether he ends up with his dream job, a supreme court justice, or he goes on a completely different path, he says he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

“The experience of having your ideas intellectually challenged in a public space along with the very competitive environment  you were put in running for various offices and participating in elections does create a kind of nerve, and I feel more assertive because of it,” he said. “For me [Boys Nation] was life changing.”

More to Discover