Boys' State 2017. Steve LeFever (Alternate), Jack Gabor (Delegate), Jacob Wells (A2), Matthew McLaughlin (D), Eric Liddell (D), Zach Slocum (D New Woodstock), Will Huftalen (D), not pictured Zach Simms (D)
By Jason Emerson
Eight Cazenovia-area teens recently attended this year’s annual New York State Boys’ State, sponsored by the American Legion, where they learned about civics, the function of government and got a taste of military discipline.
The young men who attended Boys’ State — Steven LaFever, John Gabor, Jacob Wells, Matthew McLaughlin, Eric Liddell, Zachary Slocum, Will Huftalen and Zachary Simms — were nominated, interviewed and selected based on their qualifications in leadership, character, citizenship and scholarship by a committee comprised of Cazenovia American Legion Post 88 members.
The weeklong event, held at SUNY Morrisville State College, teaches over 1,000 young men from across New York state the mechanics of city, county, and state government in an environment designed to develop a working knowledge of the structure of government to impress upon them that their government is just what they make it. The boys have the chance to choose what elective offices to run for and perform those duties, which include an elected governor, county and city officials, exactly as reflected in New York state government.
Extracurricular activities included presentations by keynote speakers (including U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney) music and sports. Some Marines were also there to teach the boys close order drill, leadership, command presence, public speaking and self-discipline.
“Boys State is definitely an experience that I will cherish and remember forever,” said Simms. “Although I learned so much, I must say the best part of my week was bonding with my roommates and the people in my county. Living with several individuals from different regions and walks of life was amazing.”
Liddell said his favorite part of the camp was the caucusing and election process. “I thought it was very interesting how from a group of around a thousand boys, an entire government could be formed in the matter of a few days. I really enjoyed being part of this process,” he said. “One significant idea that Boys’ State taught me is that when voting for someone, your decision should be entirely about what that person believes they can do to better the community, as well as that person’s character. This is something I will keep in mind every time I go to the ballot box, be it for local, state or federal elections.”
Huftalen said having Marines at the event to teach discipline and build character was crucial to the experience. “To me, having the Marines present at Boys’ State was one of the best parts of the experience,” he said. “Also, during one of our assemblies, a speaker talked to us about actions and consequences. This taught us to do the right thing. We can all bring this lesson back to our communities to make them a better place, by every day choices we make in our daily lives.”
Gabor summed up the experience of many, “I would totally do this again if I could.”
At the end of Boy’s State, two boys from each of the 49 participating states were selected to participate in Boys’ Nation later this year.
Some notable Boys’ State alumni include Neil Armstrong, Tom Brokaw, Garth Brooks, Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee, Samuel Alito, Michael Jordan, Rush Limbaugh, George Pataki, Dick Cheney, Roger Ebert and Jon Bon Jovi, among many others.
“The Cazenovia and New Woodstock American Legion Posts were very proud to send these fine young men to NY Boys’ State,” according to a statement from Legion officials. The Legion sends these students tuition-free through member dues, business and private donations dedicated solely to conducting Boys’ State.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.