Naod Fessahaye, a rising senior at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, is headed to Washington, DC, today to represent Wisconsin at Boys Nation, a leadership and civic education program of the American Legion.
Fessahaye represented high school at Badger Boys State last month. At Boys State, participants are divided into nine “counties” and 27 “cities,” and form a state government through elections and appointments over the course of a week.
Fessahaye was appointed public defender, and elected circuit court judge and Supreme Court Justice. The adult counselors of his county nominated him as a Boys Nation representative, and he is one of two chosen out of approximately 700 participants.
In an interview Thursday, Fessahaye said he learned a lot about how government works.
“I learn more about all the different levels of government, and how much even a city government can influence the county and the state level,” he said.
Fessahaye is a three-sport athlete – he plays volleyball and basketball, and runs track – and is also working on his Eagle Scout project, leading other Scouts to build a garden bed in a park in the Shorewood area. At Dominican High School, Fessahaye is a member of National Honor Society and high honor roll. His other activities and accomplishments include Black Heritage Club, KnightLife, altar server, lector, academic certificate of merit and Knights in Shining Armor Award for English.
“I like to view myself as someone who’s a servant leader,” he said. “if I’m leading a group I’m not going to just tell them, ‘Oh, just do this.’ I’m going to be actively participating in the work with them. And I know that I don’t know everything. So I’m able to like, listen to others’ ideas. I want to hear the suggestions of the group, so that we can come to the best decision for everyone.”
He said he hopes to learn from a diversity of perspectives at Boys Nation, which takes place over the next eight days at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.
“Someone from Florida is going to be completely different from me, (and from) someone from Oregon or Maine,” he said. “We’re going to have completely different views and experiences and being able to kind of connect through the shadows but also being able to see our differences as a positive.”
Notable Boys Nation alumni include three former governors of Wisconsin.
Fessahaye said he owes a lot to the inspiration of his older sister, UW-Milwaukee Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Makda Fessahaye, who has also worked for the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin.
“She has helped me a lot along the way, especially since … she’s a lawyer, and she’s worked for the state. She’s worked for the city. I’ve been able to see all the stuff that she’s done,” Naod Fessahaye said.
Fessahaye said there’s one thing he learned and wants to pass on: get out and vote.
“If it’s the state, the federal or if it’s just your local mayor, or your common council, every single level matters,” he said. “And you need to go out to vote in every single election.”