LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ - A total of 924 students from around the state converged on Rider University for six days at the end of June to create a mythical 51st state — and seven Warren students served as members of the city governments and administrations.
The program was the 69th American Legion Jersey Boys State, (ALJBS), a weeklong program that teaches young men about democracy and leadership by splitting them into 18 different cities, and having them create city governments, county governments and even elect a governor and state senator.
American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students where students become part of the operation of local, county and state government. At Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses and recreational programs.
Boys State was founded in 1935 to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps. The program was the idea of two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, who organized the first Boys State at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
“It’s our honor to welcome 924 statesmen to Jersey Boys State,” said David Bagatelle, Director of ALJBS. “The Jersey Boys State record of producing our state’s leaders is strong including our current governor, Chris Christie, our senators, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and many other political leaders.”
Statesmen had the opportunity to govern and interact with their peers from across New Jersey as they ran their own mythical 51st state of the union from June 22-27. Within 24 hours each city divided into political parties, and elected a mayor and council from within their ranks.
By the end of the session, statesmen filled the ranks of local, county, the state legislature, municipal courts and elected two senators to serve at American Legion Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. later this summer.
Attending the program sponsored by the American Legion Department of New Jersey were:
Councilman Marc Esposito, from Warren (Post #12), was in City #5.
Andrew Greenberg, from Warren (Post #293) was in City #6.
Assemblyman Kevin Guo, from Warren (Post #293) was in City #6.
Mayor Garrett Jochnau, from Warren (Post #293) was in City #8.
County Executive Harrison Napell, from Warren (Post #293) was in City #11.
Christopher Negri, from Warren (Post #293) was in City #11.
Freeholder Andrew Tu, from Warren (Post #293) was in City #16.
Highlights throughout the week included:
Notable speakers including Senator Robert Menendez, Congressman Leonard Lance, CBS 3 Philadelphia’s Jessica Dean, US Senate candidate Jeffrey Bell, former Congressman Bob Inglis (SC), among many others;
A college fair featuring nearly 100 institutions from across the country;
Leadership and career seminars featuring business executives, military representatives, political consultants, law experts and journalists, among other professional experts;
Election of the 69th ALJBS Governor on Thursday, June 26; and
Election of two Boys Nation Senators on Friday June 27, who will represent New Jersey at the annual American Legion Boys Nation program in Washington D.C., from July 18-26, 2014.
Notable ALJBS alumni include Governor Christopher Christie (Boys Nation Senator, 1979), Senator Robert Menendez (1971), Senator Cory Booker (1986), Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (1967), Congressman Leonard Lance (1969) and Assemblyman Herbert Conaway (ALJBS Governor, 1980).
Boys State programs currently exist in all Legion departments except Hawaii.
American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a separate but similar program for young women called Girls State.
For more information:
The American Legion, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206