By Tim Leeds
Levi Briese isn't sure where he'll be at this time next year.
Briese, a senior at Havre High School, is talking to Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. He's also thinking about Montana State University-Bozeman, and is looking into going to an Ivy League school.
"I think I could possibly qualify," he said.
His statistics back him up. He has a 3.9 grade point average, has played soccer, hockey, baseball and competed in track events, and helped the Havre High Blue Ponies win the Central A Conference football title with their victory over Livingston last Friday. He is one of Havre High's outstanding students.
His other activities include the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Seminar in Missoula his sophomore year, Key Club, and work at the Community Giveaway House with Kids in Action during the 2000-2001 school year. He was selected student body president and homecoming king this year. Last summer, he was elected governor at Boys State, a model of state government held for teens each year.
"He's very hard-working. He's definitely above average, but what sets him apart is his work ethic," Havre High science teacher Dan Koffler said.
Briese credits his family and his school for his success.
"My family is a big influence on me," he said. "I credit them with everything I do. They're the people I'd credit first, and I credit my friends and the Havre Public Schools."
His parents, Darrel and Shirley Briese, farm in the Havre area. His siblings, eighth-grader Erica and sixth-grade twins Beau and Adam, attend St. Jude Thaddeus School, where he went to grade school.
Whenever Briese is involved in making a decision for the school, he researches it completely, Havre High Principal Jim Donovan said.
"For a high school kid or even an adult, he's so prepared," Donovan said. "He made himself knowledgeable about something he knew nothing about."
Havre High English teacher Peggy Fink said he's an exceptional student. He is also an outspoken conservative.
Briese had made becoming governor at Boys State his goal. He'd been told people from the northern part of the state don't win very often. He ran with his friend, Lauren Utterback of Fort Benton, as his running mate.
"We just made it a thing to be friends with everybody and show we could do the job," Briese said. "Candy helped us out a lot too."
Being elected governor of Boys State from a three-member delegation of a Class A school says a lot about Briese's ability and personality, Fink said.
"He shows political savvy and people skills far beyond his years," she said.
"The best thing he has, he has just great people skills," Donovan said.
That showed through when he went pheasant hunting with U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns this fall. Burns offered him a position as an intern in Washington, D.C.
"He said it's an open invitation," Briese said.
He plans to take the senator up on the offer, but it will have to wait until he's 18 in the summer of 2004, he said.
His job as student congress president basically involves organizing and running the meetings, Briese said.
"You have to be firm with people and get things done," he said.
He credits the members of the congress with how well the body is functioning this year.
"Every meeting is a great meeting. We go in and get things done very efficient," he said.
Briese is proud of the fact that he doesn't drink alcohol at all.
"I feel very privileged that I've never had to go to that," he said. "It comes from my family. We always talk about that."
He said he doesn't get pressured by his friends to drink. They understand.
"They pressure me on pop sometimes because I don't drink pop either," he added.
When he was in eighth grade, coach Scott Hellman said he didn't want his players drinking pop, Briese said. So he listened to his coach and just continued to not drink it.
His family is important to him, but busy schedules keeps them from spending as much time together as he would like. He goes to lunch or goes shopping with his mother or father, talks about or plays football with his brothers, who are water boys for the high school team, and spends time with his sister when he can.
"My sister has the same work ethic I do and works hard. So do my brothers," Briese said.
Christmas is the biggest family time for the Brieses. They take a weeklong vacation and go somewhere together.
"That's our big time together," he added.
Fink also credits Briese's family for his abilities.
"A lot of credit for his early success has to go to a couple of terrific parents who are always at Parent's Night, always at all of the games," she said. "They're truly supportive."
Darrel Briese said he and Shirley are very happy with their son's accomplishments.
"If he can continue to keep it up, I'll be a happy father," he said.
He and Levi spent a lot of time together when Levi was a young boy, Darrel said.
Darrel and Shirley needed to leave their son with a baby sitter a lot because they both work Darrel farms and started a company manufacturing natural gas drilling equipment and Shirley works for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services but Levi didn't like staying with a baby sitter. He spent a lot of time with Darrel on the farm, his father said.
"He'd ride around with me for 15 hours in a pickup," he said.
The family spends a lot of time together, and values that time, he said. That may have helped Levi's development.
"We've got a super one-on-one relationship," Darrel said, "being able to talk about anything, drugs to alchohol to girls. I don't know how it happened but it sure seems to work."
Briese said he is waiting to see what interest colleges have in him after the football season before he makes a decision about which one to attend. He wants to play football and hockey wherever he goes.
He plans to major in civil or mechanical engineering, and eventually apply that knowledge as an architect.
His final aim is to go into politics.
"And maybe someday be the president," he added.