The American Legion Post 108 and the American Legion Auxiliary honored the Boys and Girls State participants at their monthly meeting Tuesday night.
Boys and Girls State are summer programs that teach students how government works while also focusing on leadership skills. High school students who have completed their junior year and have at least one semester left before graduation can apply to attend, but it is a very competitive program. Those students who were accepted, went to Catawba College this year and ran for office, learned public speaking, created and enforced laws and actively participated in various phases of creating and running a working government.
Newly-elected State Commander Patricia Harris was at the meeting to present the Boys State awards on behalf of the American Legion. Harris is the Post's first elected female commander in its 83-plus years.
The Boys State participants were Daniel Anderson, Matthew Bishop, Andrew Karcher, and Isaac Plouse.
The American Legion Auxiliary president Sharon Neville and unit president Mary Louise Womack presented Girls Sate participants, Margaret McCallister and Jordan Burrell with their awards.
Both Harris and Neville stressed the long-lasting impact that the State program has on its participants and the relationships forged during the week of handson activities.
After the ceremony, Anderson went into a little more detail about the inner workings of his time in the program.
“We hold mock government. We have a two-party system, federalist and nationalist – blue and red much like the Republicans and Democrats, but we start from the ground up, there's no premise for it,” he said. “We just made our own rules. We made our party platform and we ran on that platform. We run on what we believe in. We have congressmen, senators, we have town officials, county commissioners, any state officials like department of agriculture and such. I was a congressman. We passed many laws. They went to the Senate and were passed and then signed by the governor. It went well. It was very mature for over 300 17-year-olds.”
He may be finished with the program but he says that he continues to learn and will use it as he navigates his future.
“It was the opportunity of a life time. It went beyond my expectations. I learned so much and I'm still learning things. You learn life lessons there.”
Plouse also expressed gratitude to be given such an opportunity.
“There was 180 other guys there and the way I view it, it was probably 180 of the brightest young minds of North Carolina. It changed the way I look at a lot of things. It definitely helped me be a little bit more confident,” he said.
McCallister, one of the two participants to Girls State, attributed her future career to her participation in the event.
“I'm extremely honored to receive this presentation. It was an incredible experience. It's encouraged me to pursue a career as an environmental lobbyist and be active in the law making procedures,” she said.
Students who may be interested in attending Boys and Girls State in the summer of 2014 can contact guidance counselors at Franklin High School for more information.