Campus Life

UWF students recognized at the Florida Model Legislature

Five UWF students made the trek to the Florida state capital in Tallahassee on June 2 to participate in the first ever three-day Florida Model Legislature event where 45 college students gathered to simulate a mock state legislative session. The group prepared by proactively acquiring funding, formulating debate issues and researching to be prepared for the duties they would soon assume.

Those representing UWF included Damian Arias, Mary Ann Johansen, Rebekah Johansen, Lonex Louisdor and Mark Alvarez, all of whom received recognition for their influential leadership and ideas that proved valuable assets in legislation. The group received one of only two Outstanding Delegation Awards and each student also was recognized personally in some way. Twins Mary Ann and Rebekah Johansen, Louisdor and Alvarez received four of the five Outstanding Senator Awards presented and Arias received an Honorable Senator Award along with election to lieutenant governor of next year’s proceedings.

“In choosing the awards, it was very clear that they were considering their professionalism and quality of contribution,” said faculty advisor Jocelyn Evans who worked with the group, “Our students showed a clear understanding of the process and willingness to work collaboratively.”

While at the event, each member initially chose a party with which to affiliate. They then began to research issues, debate their views and vote on bills. Delegations were assigned districts to represent and thus conducted extensive research to vote in a way that would appeal to the population they spoke for. Student leadership was a crucial element to the proceedings.

“It was a great hands-on experience,” said Alvarez, a Pre-law student and previous SGA president, “This is what I want to do with my life.”

For these five students, this experience was a priceless window into their future. They have returned with a renewed zeal for their goals and aspirations and they want to share that fire with future students.

Mary Ann Johansen already is spearheading efforts to inspire her peers to attend in coming years. She and her fellow group members along with Evans are currently working with the UWF Department of Government to incorporate these kinds of hands-on experiences in the classroom as well as laying the foundation for a club that they are working with SGA to sponsor.

“They were really impressive and showed a lot of initiative,” said Evans, “There are ways to get involved out there that really have an impact. Every major should take advantage of the practical experiences that apply to them.”

To find more information on the Florida Model Legislature, visit or its Facebook page at To contact Jocelyn Evans, call (850) 474-2337 or e-mail

By Kelly Dieckmann, University Marketing Communications