All eight high schools in Blount County will be represented at both the American Legions Boys State and Girls State programs for the first time thanks to the county’s four American Legion posts and private donors. Tuition and travel expenses for nine students for Boys State and eight for Girls State will be funded for the rising high school seniors who have been selected by their high school counselors.
Boys State and Girls State are week-long intense civics classes sponsored in 49 states by the American Legion. Hundreds of students from across the state gather to form cities and counties; elect mayors, councils, commissions, judges and legislators; enact ordinances and laws; attend special interest groups like law enforcement, fire college, law school, military academy and journalism; and elect a governor and lieutenant governor, who later this summer will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in Boys Nation and Girls Nation. In addition to learning about public service, the programs allow students the opportunity to earn college scholarship money.
The American Legion posts in Oneonta, Snead, Locust Fork and Blountsville met as a group last Thursday in Blountsville with almost all of the sponsored students and their parents. Brad Green, an attorney with offices in Blount County and Birmingham, is a long-time counselor at Boys State, as well as an alum. He spoke to the students and their parents about what to expect in the week-long programs. “We bring the best students from all the state’s high schools together, helping them learn to be good citizens…and learn how to work together.”
Blount County Circuit Court Clerk Cindy Massey was on hand to offer encouragement about learning to be a leader. She told them, “It’s not okay to walk away from a wrong. It’s important to be a leader and stand up for something.”
Students attending this summer are: Eli Brothers, Micah Ogles and Molly Garnett (Susan Moore); Shelton Blyth and Courtney Kramer (J. B. Pennington); Edgar Nunez and Mallory Allen (Oneonta); Albert Tinney and Andrea Zamora (Southeastern); Tyler Garren and Ashley Hollingsworth (Locust Fork); Dylan Bradley and Avery Bradford (Hayden); Brighton Krejci and Layna Box (Cleveland); and Zachary Payne and Kara Cornelius (Appalachian).
Blount County American Legion Commander Larry Stone encouraged the students to take advantage of the opportunity. “What you’re doing is putting tools in your tool box” to use later in life. Stone later added he is planning for the posts to provide tuition for even more students next year.