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This program helps high schoolers learn about government by creating one of their own
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Horace Smallwood, right, a World War II veteran, asks Jace Summer, left, a member of Georgia Boys State, a question during a series of interviews held at American Legion Post 7 in Gainesville on Friday, May 31, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Standing out in a crowd isn’t easy, but 10 participants at Georgia Boys State did just that while at Riverside Military Academy this week.

On Friday, May 31, those 10 rising high school seniors out of the 305 taking part from all over Georgia, were being interviewed by American Legion members and Riverside staff for a chance to go on to Boys Nation, held in Washington, D.C.

“The purpose of this is to prepare and strengthen our young men in patriotism and government and what the American Legion and the flag stand for,” said Bob Beauchamp, dean of Georgia Boys State.

Boys State is held in every state across the U.S. except Hawaii. Students with at least a 3.0 grade point average are eligible to take part and are sponsored by their local American Legion.

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Members of Georgia Boys State are interviewed by members of the American Legion Post 7 at American Legion in Gainesville on Friday, May 31, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

While at Riverside, where Georgia Boys State has been held the past six years, participants create a fictional 51st state. Imaginary counties and cities are also created and the participants learn all there is to know about state government by running it themselves.

“There are already laws that are in place in these cities and counties,” Beauchamp said. “It is their job, when they form their city government, to add to the existing laws.”

Throughout the week, there are elections for different positions within the government. There are legislative sessions and court proceedings. Everything is as real as it can be.

“They make their own laws that apply to their own city, to their own county,” Beauchamp said.

They write bills, they balance a budget and campaign for governor and other positions.

Samuel Hobgood, 17, a senior at Northside High School in Columbus, said he’s known about the program since he was a freshman in high school and has been waiting for his chance to take part. He plans on going into politics after getting out of the military and hopes to maybe be president one day. Georgia Boys State is just one step in that direction.

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A member of Georgia Boys State is interviewed by a panel at American Legion Post 7 in Gainesville on Friday, May 31, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

“It’s literally as if we were creating a government,” Hobgood said. “I ran for governor and made it through the primaries, but in the general election, unfortunately I lost.”

Even though he lost, he said it didn’t discourage him from what he wants to do professionally. He’s always been interested in politics because he likes arguing his point and debating different topics.

“I argue with my parents all the time,” Hobgood said, laughing. “So, I think I’m pretty good at it.”

Hobgood said he doesn’t mind coming for a week-long camp that is so intense. He is already planning to take some college classes this summer, “so one more week ain’t that bad.”

He’s enjoyed his time, and before he started his round of interviews with American Legion members, he said he wasn’t nervous at all.

“To me it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I've loved it,” Hobgood said. “Everybody in my family is a veteran, so this is normal … This is kind of like a good environment for me, and I think I can do especially well in the interview because I’m used to being around people like this.”

But the joy for Beauchamp comes from being around the students. He’s proud to see so many young men ready and willing to learn about government and serve the country in any way.

“This is what makes me proud of this program,” Beauchamp said as he looked out at all the participants being interviewed. “When these young men tell me they’ve learned more this week than they did in high school, that makes me proud to be part of this program.”

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