Boys State intimidating but worthwhile

Photo contributed Boys State participants learned how to eat quickly. Meals were limited to 15 minutes.

Photo contributed
Boys State participants learned how to eat quickly. Meals were limited to 15 minutes.

Cornwall American Legion Post 353 sent eight teens to this year’s Boys State, an educational program designed to teach participants discipline and how the government operates. This year’s attendees were Adam Johnson, Eliot Perez, Patrick Vilda, Justin Gagnon, Lucas Arora, Sam Delacruz, Zachary Denning, and Erik Fosstveit. The program was held June 25 to July 1 at SUNY Morrisville.

Leading up to the trip Delacruz said he was excited, but at the same time wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. He heard comments from other people about how the program is run by the Marines and how hard it would be. When he arrived, he realized what those people meant.

The boys were greeted by the Marines and immediately separated into one of three cities. The high school students were further divided into 10 counties. They settled into their dorm rooms and had the chance to meet the others in their “community.”

After the meet and greet, the boys gathered outside and were taught basic marching drills, as well as how to make their bed properly. Beds would be inspected and if not made correctly, the sheets would be torn off and the process started again.

The days started early with wake-up around 5:30 a.m. for physical training. The boys had to shovel food in their mouths as meals were limited to 15 minutes.

During the day, the participants lobbied to be elected to government positions, like city councilman at the local level, and sheriff or Assemblyman at the county level. Both Delacruz and Arora ran for Assembly seats. Participants also chose which party they wanted to join – the Nationalist or Federalist.

At the Assembly level, Delacruz and Arora learned how laws are created. They broke into committees, drafted and sponsored bills, and then tried to gain support for those bills.

Some participants took their role seriously while others took it as a joke. During the election process, some would vow to fight for an earlier bedtime if elected.

Some of the bills included the legalization of marijuana or the ability to use cell phones. Aurora supported a bill allowing for longer meal times. Delacruz introduced a bill that would separate commercial and investment banks.

The experience wasn’t all work, however. The boys had some down time before dinner. They could play sports or visit the local store to buy food they couldn’t enjoy during meal time. It was also a time for the participants to empathize with each other.

The immediate isolation came as a shock to Delacruz.

“In this day and age you have your phone around you all the time and you feel really connected to everybody,” he said. “That was the first thing they took. You’re in an environment where you have to interact with the other people around you. You can’t contact your friends or family and ask them how they’re doing, how’s your day. You are trained to be disciplined. You are more focused on what’s going on around you. It gave us the ability to meet other people and live a different lifestyle than what we’re so accustomed to.”

Arora enjoyed the experience, but thought all the activities made the days drag. He did find the experience educational, however.

“I didn’t know much about the state government,” he said. “Going for a week showed me how everything works in New York State and how complicated it really is.”

It may have been interesting, but Arora doesn’t have any current desire to run for political office in the future. Delacruz, however, liked the idea of drafting legislation and said he could see himself doing so on a bigger platform than Boys State.

One of the requirements to attend Boys State is an interest in the military. Arora is looking at joining the Army or the Navy, while Delacruz  has a desire to join the Air Force or the Army.

“It showed me I like the discipline and can handle it,” Arora said of the experience. “I feel like that’s why a career in the military might be the best choice.”

Delacruz, meanwhile, said Boys State may be intimidating at first, but it’s a great challenge for those interested in joining the military.

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Jason Kaplan