Participating in the Boys and Girls State Ceremony at the American Legion Post 119 in Largo Sept. 16 are, from left, front row: students Matthew Ruppel, Brianna Lopez, Mark Hilberath, Megan Pullen and Tristan Brockwell; back row: Largo Commissioners Michael Smith Jamie Robinson; Mike “Doc” Bowen, commander of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 119; Bob Gibbia, post chairman of Boys State and Alicia Creighton, president of the post’s auxiliary unit.
LARGO – Members of the Heisler-Johnson American Legion Post 119 in Largo honored this year’s local participants in Boys and Girls State in a ceremony Sept. 16.
Since 1937, high school girls and boys who are in their junior year spend an intensive week of study and working together as self-governing citizens. The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary sponsor the program in every state except Hawaii.
More than 500 Florida students participated in the weeklong program in Tallahassee this year. Among them were the five students sponsored by Largo Post 119: Matthew Ruppel, Mark Hilberath, Tristan Brockwell, Brianna Lopez and Megan Puller.
The program teaches students how to participate in their state government, preparing them for a future role as responsible adult citizens.
The citizens of each city elect mock municipal officials and representatives to the mock state legislature. If enough citizens are present, a county level is added between city and state. From there, students elect state officials, including governor, lieutenant governor, state police and community leaders.
The local American Legion organization defrays the administration costs for the students to participate. Participants are often selected with help of high school principals or guidance counselors. The Heisler-Johnson American Legion Post 119, Sons of the American Legion Squadron 119 and the American Legion Auxillary Unit 119 sponsored the Largo students.
During the Sept. 16 ceremony, the post gave each student a certificate of appreciation. Largo Commissioners Jamie Robinson and Michael Smith presented a proclamation from the city of Largo and invited the students to participate in the commission meetings and meet Largo Mayor Pat Gerard.
“This was a truly amazing and exciting experience by all who participated,” stated legion auxiliary spokewoman Sondra Bober. “I would not be surprised that one day we will see one or more of our participants in headlines and in a position in our government.”