Westville American Legion sends kids to Boys and Girls State

Rose Hawkins, Correspondent

Independent News

Brayden Chesrown, Dakota Miles, Drew Barney, Madison Sermersheim and Santasia Elliott get to spend a week in Boys State June 10-16, and Girls State June 18-24.

Every year about this time, Mike Spisok of the Westville American Legion calls an assembly of high school juniors in Westville area, explains to those students who are interested what Boys and Girls State is all about, and the benefits to each student, then passes out applications to candidates who want to attend. The purpose of each camp is to provide citizenship training. A portion of the application they fill out requests an essay telling why they want to go.

“It's not easy going to a camp and not knowing a single person there,” Madison Sermersheim wrote. “I hope to learn how to deal with and overcome that obstacle, and I want to learn new leadership skills and make new friends. I hope to become more independent. College is just around the corner and I believe this experience will introduce me to being on my own and stepping out of my comfort zone. The biggest thing I would like to get out of Girls State is building my confidence. It is a big quality of a leader. I hope to also encourage others to build self-confidence as well.”

Drew Barney's essay mentioned that “It will enhance my college application, besides it's a chance to grow as a person and leader, gain knowledge about government while learning the importance of civic duties. By attending Boys' State, I hope to gain confidence and become a more well-rounded, diverse person. I appreciate representing my school and home town.”

At the week-long camp, located on EIU campus in Charleston, they are housed in college dorms, divided into teams, and have fun as they learn how to do a job interview, how to react in a business situation, how to shake hands, how to dress for the job, and many, many more things. The teams are chosen so that no two people from the same town, county or area are on the same team. 

They “run” for offices at the state level, have to submit their name for the position(s) they choose, then work with the others on the team to organize campaigns, give speeches, and vote. Some of the main offices (like Governor) qualifies the winner for a scholarship the following year. Several other scholarships will be available to anyone attending these state camps.

“I'm honored to be considered for Boys State from the Westville American Legion,” Brayden Chesrown said enthusiastically. “I have heard nothing but amazing stories. It's a chance to meet new friends, practice existing leadership skills and learn more about government and how it works on all levels.”

Dakota Miles is looking forward to participating in Boys State “to have the opportunity to learn how to be a productive person of society and know how to govern a state by the end of the weeks' stay, and how to be a proper citizen. I like to meet new people and generate new ideas for me to use in my everyday life. Plus I get to travel. I've never been to EIU, I can check out the college and see what they have to offer. Finally, I would gain friendship, leadership, how to solve complex problems and work on a team efficiently.”

Santasia Elliott said in her essay: “When presented with the opportunity to participate in an interactive minor scale government simulation, I knew right away that that was something I wanted to be accepted into. I was in sixth grade when my brother attended Boys State. Listening to his stories of experiences there made me know that I would try my hardest to also be a part of this unique experience.”

It's a thrill to interview these boys and girls. Their poise, respectful, cooperative and polite demeanors refreshes hope for the future. 

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