OAKHURST – Two local students just experienced life-changing weeks away from home, attending summer programs designed to elevate the country’s young leaders while allowing them first-person access to the ideals and practices that shape the American goverment.
Quentin Lawrence and Meagan Montalto, Yosemite High School class of 2016, shared their recent experiences with American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State, respectively. Each spent one week with the California forum that feeds into a national program, teaching young men and women how government works and developing leadership skills, say organizers, along with an appreciation for the rights of American citizens.
Participants in the program run for office, learn public speaking, create and enforce laws, and actively participate in all phases of creating and running a working government in this time-tested, exciting and fun summer program.
Quentin Lawrence, Yosemite High School
“It was the perfect job for me.”
Boys State is week long summer camp for junior boys who are interested in a future career in politics or who demonstrate leadership abilities. It started in the late 1930s and has taken place every year since. I was a part of the 78th session, held from June 20 through June 27, 2015, at California State University, Sacramento
Boys State is sponsored and run by the American Legion, so the selection process is run by them as well. Every teacher that has a junior class is asked to select a few boys who have demonstrated leadership abilities or an interest in politics. The boys with the most teacher recommendations are then interviewed by our local American Legion post.
One boy from each high school is selected and I ended up being that one at YHS.
About 1,000 boys attended this year’s session of Boys State. The delegates are divided into 25 cities which make up five counties. As well as cities, the delegates are divided into two separate political parties, the Federalists and the Whigs. Starting at the city level and moving to the state level, delegates run for office. You do not have to run but you are encouraged to.
I went to Boys State open minded and with the expectation that I would participate as much as I could, as well as run for office. I have always had an interest in politics so I also saw Boys State as an opportunity to advance my knowledge of our states system of government. I ended up running for a county supervisor position which I did not get. I then ran to become a part of my party’s political platform committee which I successfully nabbed.
As a part of the platform committee, 24 other delegates and I were tasked with deciding where our party stood on actual state, national, and international issues. It was the perfect job for me.
The most challenging aspect of the week was taking the time and effort to go person to person and try to ensure that you had their vote with the knowledge that at least one other person was doing the exact same thing for the exact same position. It gave me an appreciation for the challenge of running for office.
Boys State exists to educate young men from across the state on the political system in place in our state as well as to inspire them to become involved in government. It was an incredible opportunity to meet new people, leave my comfort zone, and gain a greater appreciation for our states political system. I made many friends that I won’t soon forget and many memories that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
I’d like to thank my parents for encouraging me to always do the best that I can as well as inspiring me to learn more about politics. I’d like to the my teachers throughout my schooling for the wonderful education I have received, and finally I’d like to thank my local American legion post 110 for giving me this amazing opportunity.
Quentin Lawrence is a full diploma International Baccalaureate candidate at YHS with a recent 5.0 grade point average. He’s involved in various clubs on campus, including California Scholarship Federation (CSF) and Key Club, as well as athletices including cross country, varsity soccer and travel soccer during the summer. Quentin currently work at Ducey’s on the Lake as a busboy and likes spending time with friends, exploring the natural wonders of the area, and exercising. He was also chosen to attend another leadership camp, RYLA, which is sponsored by Rotary. Quentin hopes to attend a higher level university like U.C. Berkeley, with the intention to study biology and eventually enroll in medical school and become a doctor.
Meagan Montalto, Yosemite High School
“I learned just how important sisterhood is.”
Started in 1937, California Girls State is a mock California state legislature in which approximately 500 girls are nominated by their teachers at their high school, and then one from each is selected by their local American Legion and Auxiliary Unit to attend a six day long camp at Claremont McKenna College. The girls take on positions at the city, county, and state level, experiencing our state government on multiple levels. Girls State was held from June 28 through July 3, 2015, at Claremont McKenna College
I attended Girls State with the knowledge that I would be amongst the best and brightest girls my state-wide peer group had to offer. With this in mind, as well as the hope to run for the state position of Attorney General, I was very nervous that the atmosphere would be heavily competitive and I myself would not measure up to the same caliber: to run for a state office in which I would have to campaign and provide speeches in front of the entire camp populous.
Once I arrived at the college I learned that the majority of my peers were in the exact same position as I was, having come from every corner of the state not knowing a single person. Each loved to work hard in school and extracurricular activities, and all were just as intimidated by everyone else as I was. However, after getting to know everyone in my 28-girl dorm city of Balboa by name after the first night, I felt much more comfortable with everyone. Some of the most fun and rewarding moments I experienced were helping my city mates with campaigning and personal problems. One of the most challenging aspects of Girls State was physically just putting myself out there to meet new people and not selling myself short, or as my counselor put it “self-campaigning.”
One thing I thought was interesting about the 2015 California Girls State was the people there were from all walks of life. At Girls State there was no majority of race or ethnicity. I was one of the only Caucasians in my city. As for most of the girls I had met; many of us were only first or second generation Americans, which I believe to be a wonderful indicator of California’s diverse culture and population. After attending Girls State I have now thought about taking on some extra classes about American government and law. I really enjoyed the mock trial I participated in at Girls State, combining acting and law.
Although Girls State looks great on a college application, that is not what I took away from the week. In those few precious days my perspective was changed in so many ways that when I left Claremont McKenna I felt as though I was not the same person returning home. I had developed a new home with these 500 fellow citizens in which we could speak openly without discrimination on our ideals, show off our talents and ambitions, and create lasting friendships that, as our counselors will eagerly declare, are more meaningful than anything else the camp could provide. With these fellow women I learned just how important sisterhood is, a driving force that exudes confidence, love, and above all respect: respect for the government, its workers, our service men and women, America as a whole, and one another.
Referring to my local support I’d like to thank the anonymous teaching and administrative staff that nominated me for this opportunity, as well as my local American Legion Auxiliary 110 that selected me for this honor of representing our district.
I would also like to thank everyone who took part in as well as helped make possible the 2015 California Girls State, especially the counselors and the citizens of my city Balboa who really made my stay extremely special.
Meagan Montalto is a full IB diploma candidate with a 5.00 GPA, who has participated in sports including tennis, water polo, basketball, swim, and dive. She’s also Co-Drum Major with the YHS Marching Band. Meagan plays percussion and French horn, is a member of the YHS Key Club, along with CSF. As a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, she pairs with a local student weekly. Meagan loves to act, sing, dance, is taking piano lessons, and has been featured in Golden Chain Theater productions. She hopes to attend Dartmouth College, double majoring in Neurology and Music with plans to become an Army doctor through Dartmouth’s ROTC program, deferring active service for a few years to attend medical school.
“One week that shapes a lifetime,” is a motto of Boys and Girls State