American Legion receives ‘thank you’ from teens

Posted By | July 12, 2006 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
The American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary have once again been a integral part in helping shape the lives of several White County teens as sponsors for the youth to attend an event that provided life-changing experiences.
Each year, White County’s American Legion and the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, along with the assistance of Sparta civic organizations, sponsor delegates for Tennessee Volunteer Girls State and Tennessee American Legion Boys State.
Six girls and four boys were the recipients of a weeklong adventure most of them said they will never forget. All 10 experienced a journey into learning about the world of government and citizenship.
Each year, three girls who will be entering their senior year in high school are selected to attend Girls State, which takes place in Murfreesboro over the Memorial Day weekend. Two of the girls are sponsored by the auxiliary, while a third delegate is sponsored by Sparta Rotary Club. Three alternates are also selected who will take the places of the delegates if they cannot participate in the event.
This year, for the first time in White County’s history at Girls State, all six girls were in attendance from May 28-June 2. According to Brenda Knox, a former Girls’ State candidate and a 38-year volunteer at the event, several candidates from other Tennessee counties “just didn’t show up.” Those counties’ misfortune was a blessing to White County. Knox made three hurried phone calls to each of the three alternates from White County. In less than 12 hours, the three alternates had arrived at Girls State.
The six girls included Kerri Null, Lauryn Howard, Chelsa Cantrell, Leigh Bumbalough, Allison Wilson and Lori Burns.
Four of the girls attended the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary meeting Thursday night to tell members about their experiences and thank them for providing the funding.
Null, daughter of Bruce and Judy Null, was the first to speak.
“First of all, I would just like to thank everybody for giving me – and I know the other girls feel the same – the opportunity to go to Girls’ State,” said Kerri. “It was just an experience that was incredible, and I will never forget it.
“What I am here to talk to you about is the people I met while I was at Girls’ State. The women that you meet there are just absolutely incredible, not to mention all of the friends I made that I will know forever and keep in touch with that have really been a blessing in my life. And, it really makes your trip incredible by the people you’re around – such a positive influence that those people made on my life that I will never be able to forget.
“I’d just like to say thank you for giving me that opportunity and that experience. Words cannot express Girls’ State. It’s really a difficult thing to explain, but the people I met there made the biggest impact on my life.”
Howard, daughter of Terry and Terri Howard, is no stranger to the political world. Her father served as a White County commissioner for several years, as well as holding the position of county commission chairman.
“I just want to tell you a little bit about what we took part in while we were there, ” said Lauryn. “When you’re going into your senior year in high school, you know, you think, ‘Oh, yeh, I’ve had my history classes. I’ve had my government classes.’ I think I got the basics of how our government works.
“When you get there [Girls’ State] you just have no idea there’s so many positions and there’s so much that goes on for campaigning. This is just for a week. This is not the governor.
“I just cannot tell you how invaluable that’s been in my life to be able to understand how your government works and to be so appreciative that you live in a country who has a government like that and to be able to take part in something like that to know that you’re not like all those other countries who have just one form.
“It’s such a wonderful opportunity to live in a country like this. So, that was probably the biggest thing for me at Girls’ State was to realize how lucky we are to live in a place as wonderful as the United States and to have people like you all who have kept our freedom.
“I just really want to thank you all for the opportunity to be here, and I thank you all very much for that. You will never understand how much that meant to us. We just want to tell you thank you very much.”
Cantrell, daughter of David and Angie Cantrell, explained her favorite part of Girls State.
While we were there, we had the opportunity to run for offices,” said Chelsa. That was a lot of fun – and I did. The best part of my week was being elected to the Senate.
“While we were there, they taught us a lot about the paperwork of how to write a bill. We were all asked to write a law and propose it to the State of Tennessee. I wrote a law about education, and it was about the nutrition in schools.
“While we were in the Senate, we got to debate all the laws that were written and talk about them as if they were really going to be presented to the State of Tennessee. What’s really great about what we did pass is they go before Gov. Phil Bredesen, and he reviews them and has the opportunity to send them to the real Tennessee Senate and House.
Bumbalough, daughter of Tim and Teresa Bumbalough, was the last of the girls to express her feelings about the event.
“I’d like to thank you like they did,” said Bumbalough, “and I’m going to talk to you about what we learned about ourselves. We learned how to be an informed voter and really listen and take notes on all of the candidates – to know who we wanted to vote for and whose views and points we were passionate about, so when we get up into the voting age we will able to review our candidates and be able to choose the right ones.
“We had lots of great speakers – awesome women – and we learned so much. It’s okay to fail sometimes. You have to learn from your mistakes.”
From May 28-June 3, Tennessee Technological University campus, in Cookeville, was the site for the annual Boys State. White County’s four candidates were Blake Rice, Tyler Green, Corey Crain and Rhett Verble. They were sponsored by the legion with some funding assistance from White County Lions Club and White County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Rice and Green were present at the legion meeting to tell about what they learned.
Rice, son Jeff and Amy Rice, jokingly said he was not as well-prepared as the girls, but he successfully relayed his feelings to the roomful of legion members.
“Boys’ State was pretty much like the Girls’ [State], but ours was a little more military based,” said Blake, “so we learned a lot more discipline and leadership. We learned about government and how laws are passed. It was really interesting and fun. I made a lot of new friends.
Tyler Green, son of John and Pam Green, followed Blake with his comments.
“When I got over there, I was kind of scared,” said Tyler. “I really didn’t want to spend my week over there. It was really educational about all the government. I was scared because of the military based part. It was real strict on the discipline, but I really enjoyed it. I met a lot of new friends – friends that’ll be there forever. It’s just a great group of people to be around.
“I’d like to thank everybody for sending us and sponsoring us – for really making an influence on our lives.”
Tyler said numerous state officials were present at Boys State, including Gov. Phil Bredesen, State Representative Charles Curtiss and State Senator Charlotte Burks. One of the guest speakers was Gerald Ford Jr.
For more information about Girls State or Boys State contact a member of the American Legion or American Legion Auxiliary.

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