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American Legion program educates local students
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Forsyth County News

2011 American Legion/Auxiliary Boys and Girls State participants

• Forsyth Central — Chris Bier, Nathan Williams and Megan Newcomer

• Lambert High — Joshua Bishop, Chris Miles and Tara Keil

• North Forsyth — Brody Oakes, Donovan Smith, Allie Robbins and Ariel Bettes

• South Forsyth — Avery Gurney, Miguel Flores and Emily Grosshans

• West Forsyth — Ben Boyd, Sam Loveland and Aida Mokube

Several Forsyth County teens recently received a first-hand lesson in government.

Ten boys and six girls from the county’s five public high schools were selected to attend the Boys and Girls State programs through the American Legion.

Held each June at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, the programs provide a week-long, hands-on civics lesson to students.

“It’s quite a rigorous program,” said Guy Sillay of American Legion Post 307 in Cumming. “They learn all about local and city government. They’re elected to all sorts of posts like sheriff or mayor, and they go through all the jobs that person would do in the real world.”

Boys State has been ongoing in every state except Hawaii since 1935, when two American Legion members in Illinois created it as a way to counter Adolph Hitler’s youth movement.

Girls State began two years later in Washington, D.C., and Delaware. Since 1948, Girls State has been a regular part of American Legion Auxiliary programs.

The students chosen to participate in both programs are rising seniors with a grade-point average of at least 3.0 who have shown strong leadership and community service skills.

Sillay said the boys and girls are nominated by their school counselors. Those nominated are then interviewed by committees from the American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary.

The groups pay all the expenses of the students during the programs.

Sillay said Forsyth County students have excelled at both Boys and Girls State in recent years.

He said two representatives in each program are elected by their peers annually to attend Boys and Girls Nation, held each July in Washington, D.C.

Through this program, students learn about federal government, often meeting senators, congressmen and sometimes even the president.

“Two years ago we had a boy go on to Boys Nation and last year, we had a girl go on to Girls Nation,” Sillay said. “So Forsyth County has been very well-represented.”