By Mary Fox
Six Ellicottville high school juniors have been given the opportunity to grow in their knowledge and appreciation of good citizenship.
Liam O’Rourke, Cory Tomblin, Fletcher Macomb, John Alzate, Jesse Pollock and Chris Wojtowicz will attend the National American Legion Boys’ State program from June 23–29 at SUNY State College in Morrisville, N.Y.
The program was begun to combat the Nazi Youth movement that started in Illinois before WWII. Since 1938, 49 states have sent boys to the Boys’ State program in their state. In the last 50 years, approximately 1,700 high school juniors have attended from Cattaraugus County with approximately 110 sponsored by the Ellicottville American Legion Post #659.
Ellicottville Central School Guidance Counselor Tammy Eddy presented a list of junior high academic achievers to their teachers who chose the most qualified students based on the criteria of leadership, character, scholarship, service and citizenship. Six boys were submitted to the selection committee of the Legion.
“Some years it is hard to find boys to attend. This year we couldn’t come to a decision which of the boys should be chosen,” said Jim Morton, Boys’ State representative in Ellicottville.
“I’m not going to make any decision on this one,” said Hobie Hall, former teacher and member of the selection committee. “They are all good boys.”
“This is the first year all the boys nominated have been chosen. It’s a great group of boys and they will certainly benefit from the program,” said Eddy.
“Boys’ State developed from the concept that youth should be offered a better perspective of the practical operation of government; that the individual is an integral part, and commensurately responsible, for the character and success of his government,” according to the 2013 Boys’ State Handbook.
“Boys’ State is an intensive citizenship training program with the objectives of developing civic leadership and pride in American Citizenship, stimulate an interest in the detailed study of our government, with the goal of instilling a determination to maintain our form of government and to develop a full understanding of our American traditions and a belief in the United States of America.”
Wojtowicz, referring to the Marines that deal with the logistics of movement and conduct of the 11,00 boys that will attend this year, expects “to learn a lot about government, and how the real world works and how to deal with authority figures.”
With the emphasis on government, daily activities will include informational assemblies, guest speakers such as elected officials, a holocaust survivor and a public speaking expert, to name a few.
“It will open my eyes to what’s out there in government and how it works,” said Pollock.
Councilors made up of government officials, college professors, high school teachers and former Boys’ State members will provide daily programming while U.S. Marines, ROTC and U.S. Military Academy Cadets will assist with daily duties.
Tomblin thinks it is a good opportunity for learning about and working for others as well as training in what happens in the military.
While interviewing these six young men, I was very impressed with their cooperation, politeness, character and willingness to participate and learn. They are the thinkers, workers, and honest and willing citizens of the future that can make a difference. Their parents and teachers can be proud of leading them on the path to the leadership roles they are destined to play.