By Jim Lambert
Union Catholic’s Matt Gomez, Patrick Hartnett, Terry Lin ,James Scacifero, and Miles Smith were among 838 rising seniors from New Jersey who attended the 73rd session of the American Legion Jersey Boys State (ALJBS), which concluded this past Friday at Rider University in Lawrenceville.
The students were chosen to attend the college credit-qualified and preeminent learn-by-doing leadership program, sponsored by the American Legion Department of New Jersey, based on their school involvement, academic excellence, leadership qualities, and character.
The goal of ALJBS is to develop good citizens by inspiring the youth of New Jersey to take a more active and intelligent interest in the operation of our state and nation and in the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. The program also helps young people understand the sacrifices made by our veterans to preserve our nation and way of life.
Every student at the event had the opportunity to participate in the political party process by running for office, participating in friendly debate and voting in elections, among many other events. By the end of the week, the delegation elected a new ALJBS Governor, Lieutenant Governor and two Boys Nation Senators, who will attend a national program in Washington, D.C. this summer.
There were also 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.
The graduation ceremony was highlighted by a speech from U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who stressed the value of the program and admonished the delegates to continue pursuing great things. Other speakers at the event included 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.
Among the noteworthy ALJBS alumni are Gov. Chris Christie (Boys Nation Senator, 1979), Sen. Bob Menendez (1971), Sen. Cory Booker (1986), Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (1967), Rep. Leonard Lance (1969) and Assemblyman Herbert Conaway (ALJBS Governor, 1980).
American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state government, 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.