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Six Montclair Youths Attend American Legion Jersey Boys State

Natalie Heard Hackett

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 • 3:30pm

MONTCLAIR, NJ - Six distinguished students from Montclair attended a nationally acclaimed leadership and government expedition called American Legion Jersey Boys State (ALJBS). In its 69th ALJBS session, the convention took place at Rider University in Lawrenceville during the week of June 22-27.

ALJBS is a week long symposium that teaches young men about democracy and leadership in a government setting. This experience is designed to educate and inspire New Jersey’s youth so that each statesman may become a citizen leader dedicated to service, respect, and Americanism in their own community.

American Legion Post 251 selected the following six Montclair students to represent Montclair:

Councilman Ali, Mujahid from Montclair (Post #251) was in City #1.
Cohen, Edward from Montclair (Post #251) was in City #3.
Eden, Evan from Montclair (Post #251) was in City #5.
Kornegay, Simeon from Montclair (Post #251) was in City #9.
Luck, Malcolm from Montclair (Post #251) was in City #10.
Willis, Juouan from Montclair (Post #251) was in City #17.

“We receive recommendations from the Board of Education and guidance counselors who select the boys based on their GPA and extra-curricular activities.  Most of the young men who are chosen are chosen from the highest ranking GPAs in their class.”  said Darrel Collins, Commander at Montclair Post #251.  

The 6 Montclair representatives were among 31 selected from across Essex County.  A total of 924 students were chosen from across the state of New Jersey.  During the conference, the delegates form a mythical “51st” state of the union each year, where they elect their own local, state, and national representatives.  

“It’s our honor to welcome 924 statesmen to Jersey Boys State,” said David Bagatelle, Director of ALJBS. “The Jersey Boys State record of producing our state’s leaders is strong including our current governor, Chris Christie, our senators, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and many other political leaders.”

Activities during the ALJBS convention include legislative sessions, general assemblies, court proceedings, athletics, band, and career seminars, among many others.  Together, they create a city government with elected officials from council people up to governor and two state senators. The state senators that are elected move on to represent NJ at a Boys Nation conference later this month in Washington, D.C..

All expenses for the young men to attend the ALJBS are usually donated by a sponsoring American Legion Post, a local business, or a community-based organization. American Legion Post 251 sponsored the 6 young men from Montclair.

During the week long program, statesmen had the opportunity to hear from notable New Jersey leaders such as Senator Robert Menendez, Senator Corey Booker, Lt. Governor Guandango, and Congressman Leonard Lance.  Statesmen were also privileged to hear from leaders from across the nation such as former Congressman Bob Inglis (SC), CBS 3 Philadelphia’s Jessica Dean and many others.

“I continue to reflect fondly on my experience at Boys State and still draw on the lessons learned in the program,” said Senator Booker. “Jersey Boys State is one of my inspirations for dedicating my life to public and community service. By encouraging our youth to be engaged members of our democratic system and teaching them the tenants of community engagement and civic service we enable them make our towns, our nation, and our world a better place.”

Over the week long duration, statesmen attended leadership and business seminars featuring business executives, military representatives, political consultants, law experts, journalists, and other professional representatives.  They were also given the opportunity to visit with representatives from as many as 100 institutions from across the country during the ALJBS College Fair.

Notable ALJBS alumni include Governor Chris Christie (Boys Nation Senator, 1979), Senator Robert Menendez (1971), Senator Cory Booker (1986), Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (1967), Congressman Leonard Lance (1969) and Assemblyman Herbert Conaway (ALJBS Governor, 1980).

The culminating activity of the week long symposium was an election of the 69th ALJBS Governor and two Boys Nation Senators.  Those individuals elected will go on to represent New Jersey at the annual American Legion Boys Nation program in Washington, DC from July 18-26.  

For more information about  American Legion Jersey Boys State, log onto aljbs.org

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