LAWRENCE, NJ - Five young men from Bridgewater and Martinsville were among 838 other rising-seniors from New Jersey attending the 73rd session of the annual American Legion Jersey Boys State (ALJBS.)
At the event, taking place at Rider University this week, the students get to "govern and interact with their peers from across New Jersey as they run their own mythical 51st state," said the American Legion.
"Within 24 hours of their arrival to ALJBS, students will have formed 18 mock city governments and two political parties to elect a mayor and city council to guide their city throughout the week," said the organization. "Each student has an opportunity to participate in the political party process by running for office, participating in friendly debate and voting in elections, among many other events."
According to the American Legion, the teens would - by the end of the week - elect a new ALJBS governor, lieutenant governor and two Boys Nation senators who will attend a national program in Washington, D.C. this summer.
"The college credit-qualified program, sponsored by the American Legion Department of New Jersey, is a preeminent learn-by-doing leadership program," said the organization. It said students are typically chosen and sponsored by a local American Legion Post and other community organizations.
“In our 73rd year, we are very happy to welcome 883 of New Jersey’s brightest leaders to Jersey Boys State,” ALJBS Executive Director David Bagatelle said. “American Legion Jersey Boys State serves as a leadership incubator for our state’s top students who will become our political, community, military, and business leaders.”
The local students were David Chen, of Bridgewater, for Legion Post No. 12; Xavier Lee, of Bridgewater, for Legion Post No. 294; Spencer Wilkinson, of Bridgewater, for Legion Post No. 12; Brett Wolin, of Bridgwater, for Legion Post No. 12; and Nicholas Sokol, of Martinsville, for Legion Post. No. 12.
Speakers at the event included state Sen. Bob Menendez (ALJBS ’71), U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (ALJBS ’69), State Treasurer Liz Muoio, U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin (ALJBS ’71) and NJ101.5’s Bill Spadea, said the American Legion.
There were leadership and career seminars taught by business executives, military representatives, political consultants, law experts, journalists and other professional experts. There was also a Jersey Boys State College and Career Fair presented by the New Jersey Boys State Foundation featuring nearly 80 institutions and organizations from across the country.
Notable ALJBS alumni include former Gov. Chris Christie (Boys Nation Senator, 1979), Menendez (1971), U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (1986), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito (1967), Lance (1969) and state Assemblyman Herbert Conaway (ALJBS Governor, 1980).