Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer
With much anticipation, four students from Craig County High School in the 9th District, will be attending the annual Boys and Girls Auxiliary State Program for 2017. Jeannie Guthrie and Jackie Scruggs-Taylor worked diligently to inform teachers and students of the awesome opportunity.
The dates of American Legion Association for Virginia Boys and Girls State Sessions are from Sunday, June 18 through Saturday, June 24. This also marks the 75th year for the Virginia Boys State and it will be held at Radford University. The Girls State will meet at Longwood College.
High school juniors throughout the state of Virginia will converge, with a common focus of creating a better government using their ideas, intuitiveness and intellect. This year’s theme is “Wrapping up our treasure chest of future leaders.”
The American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State website shares that these “are the premier programs for teaching how government works while developing, confidence, leadership skills and an appreciation for your rights as a citizen, as well as shape the future of many students.
“Students learn in depth, the rights, privileges, and duties of being a United States citizen as well as understanding one’s responsibilities,” Guthrie said.
Taylor and Guthrie shared that, “in both Boys and Girls State, the participants will run for office, learn public speaking, create and enforce laws and actively participate in all phases of creating and running a working government.”
Marie Reynolds Dobyns, a citizen and retired teacher who passed away just last year, shared these thoughts. “This is a wonderful opportunity for any student who qualifies,” she explained. Dobyns, an advocate for the program, worked with the Boys State for 26 years and Girls Auxiliary for 22.
“I remember the first one who attended was Cornette Caldwell in 1955,” she said. “They go through the gubernatorial procedure and will also participate in legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations and assemblies.”
Four students – McKenzie Fisher, Lynsey Taylor, Tanner Duncan and Andrew Kendall – will represent Craig County this year.
After her sister older Kate started to get active in high school, McKenzie became familiar with the program. “I feel this will be a good experience for me and feel it will help me to be a better citizen,” Fisher said. “It’s also a good opportunity for CCHS to have us representing our school.” Fisher currently attends BTEC as a Cosmetology student. “My goals are to eventually get into medicine,” she shared.
Lynsey Taylor shared that her teacher, Jeannie Guthrie, encouraged her to attend. “I also did research online to discover more about the week and I like the idea of trying to form your own government while you work to make it the best by the end of the week,” said Taylor who shared that she was a little nervous, yet excited about attending. Her future plans are to attend college after graduating and study Social Science.
Tanner Duncan was also given the opportunity to attend. “Ms. Guthrie helped me to understand what the week was all about,” he said. “I feel it will be a new experience for me and a good way to meet others.” He added that it is a positive factor on college admission applications. Duncan plans to study law to become a lawyer.
“My history teacher, Mr. Crenshaw, shared the program with me,” Andrew Kendall said. “I have always been interested in politics and I am excited to be a part of this week.” His goals are to attend college to become a History teacher and later seek a deeper relationship into politics. Kendall has also been selected to an elite summer program at the Sorensen Institutes High School, which is promoted under the UVA umbrella.
“I absolutely loved Girls State and I would encourage any rising senior girl to take part in the program, even if it seems a bit out of their comfort zone,” stated Amanda Dillon, a 2014 recipient. “I learned so much in the week that I was there, not only concerning the workings of Virginia’s state government, but it pushed me to work on my people skills.”
“The completion of Girl’s and Boy’s State is a plus on college applications and future resumes as well,” Taylor said. “Some colleges consider it an automatic entrance when a student has attended Boys or Girls State,” High School History teacher, Marion Trumbo added.
The American Legion strives to provide students with an environment where they can understand the issues that face the USA and be able to develop their own views, while being engaged in leadership roles.
“They work diligently with our young people!” Dobyns shared last year. “It is not unusual for them to bring in judges and special dignitaries.” She added that one year the special keynote speaker was an Admiral in the Navy. “After he attended one time, he was so impressed with the program that he requested to become a counselor,” Dobyns said.
The program is complimented by the many extracurricular activities such as; chorus, band, sports and other interesting events. Personal testimonies have proven that this entire program opens many doors for future employment and college opportunities for the students.
At this event, they will run for political office, meet with the Governor, state Representatives, Senators and possibly the President of the United States. The week is packed with scheduled events as well as a few surprises, which any student who has had friends attend, look forward to.
Last year, there were no participants that attended the program, which was the first time in 61 years that Craig County was not represented. “Marie would be so happy that we have all four slots filled this year!” Taylor shared.
Still, it would not be possible if the citizens of Craig did not help to sponsor these students, at a cost of approximately $1600. This year, Farmers & Merchants Bank and Mr. Mickelbus are the Girls sponsors and IGA Express and Bill Wolfe sponsored the Boys. “Our supporters for Boy’s and Girl’s State are so wonderful, and we will continue to work with them for the future for Craig County Students,” Taylor said.
“We want to thank the citizens of Craig who made this possible for us!” all four students shared as they were interviewed. “We are greatly appreciative and look forward to this wonderful opportunity!”
Dillon said that the program guided her with sound instruction that gave her a bold confidence to stand up in front of a room of total strangers. “I then felt comfortable to talk about my ideas and opinions without being intimidated,” she exclaimed. “I also gained a new sense of patriotism from this experience that I would have not received otherwise.”
Because of the positive impact and invaluable experiences the students who have previously attended received, along with the love and dedication Marie Reynolds Dobyns had for the program, Charles Barnes and other retired teachers are hoping to start a Memorial Scholarship Fund for future students to attend. “This would continue Miss Marie’s passion for Boys and Girls State participation,” Taylor added.
One of Dobyns repetitive comments continues to permeate the ears of many; “We do not want any student to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity!”
Many teachers and staff agree with the theme of this year’s program that “Craig County High School students are ‘our’ treasure chest of future leaders, and we all need to do as much as possible to see they have every opportunity to spread their wings!”