Local teen-agers get lesson in government

By Trina Trice

The boys are back in town.

More than a dozen rising high school seniors recently returned from Statesboro where they got a hands-on lesson on how various levels of government work.

The program is called Boys State and is a more than 60-year-old tradition started by the American Legion, one of the largest veteran organizations in the country.

"We expose them to a practical exercise in civics," said Keith Hardman, director of Boys State.

Over the course of one week, participants network and attend classes, and campaign for positions on a fictitious city, county, and state government.

Activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, chorus, and recreational programs.

Matthew Wright of Jonesboro served as a judge on the Court of Appeals.

"I went ?cause I thought it'd be something different and a challenge for me," he said. "I've always enjoyed watching politics on TV – C-Span or something like that. I've always had an attraction ever since I was young. I'm the kind of person who feels obligated to serve my country."

Wright's father Tim Wright knew Boys State would be a good experience for him.

"Matt's a history nut," he said. "He's been preparing himself for a military career. He has self-groomed himself for the military. It was just heaven-sent, you know, how you're just born to do some things."

Wright would like to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or the U.S. Naval Academy, and could eventually join the Marines, he said.

Stockbridge resident Kyle Hudalla also attended Boys State. He hopes to get a ROTC scholarship for college, after which he plans to join the military as an officer.

Although Hudalla did serve as an elected official, he was a court reporter and served on an election board.

About Boys State, Hudalla said, "My brother went a few years back. I heard it was a phenomenal opportunity. Learning the way the government is, it was very interesting. It was a great experience meeting a whole new bunch of people. You definitely learn a lot about yourself and your peers."

To qualify for Boys State, a candidate must have a 3.0 grade point average and be nominated by a teacher or school administrator. Each local American Legion post sponsors participants living in its district.

Other participants in Boys State from Clayton and Henry counties include: from Jonesboro are Rashad Maolud and Steven Green; from Rex is James Tickle; from Hampton is Brandon Cass; from Stockbridge are Michael Cox, Kevin Medert, Christopher Jones, Kyle Tinsley, Ryan Shaw, Ryan Bahnsen, and Joseph Fuqua; and from McDonough are Viet Tran, Matthew Turner, Jeremy Drennan, and Jesse Waddy.