LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — For the last 67 years, the top male students from New Jersey have gathered for the American Legion Jersey Boys State. Called “Boys State” for short, the week-long program has a strong tradition of education, patriotism and excellence in the development of tomorrow’s leaders.
For the first time in New Jersey, the Marine Corps was invited to play a part. Marines with Recruiting Station New Jersey served primarily as advisers, mentors and motivators for the young men throughout the week.
“I was motivated for this week,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nelson Roman, a supply management chief with RS New Jersey. “Getting involved with the community is important and making a difference in our young adults is paramount.”
The American Legion Jersey Boys State mission states, “To develop good citizens in the United States by inspiring the youth of New Jersey to take a more active and intelligent interest in the operation of our State and Nation and in the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship and to understand the sacrifices made by our veterans to preserve our nation and way of life.”
More than 800 students participated in the program. The students were broken down in groups called “cities.” As the week progresses, the participants run for office as elected officials within their cities. Approximately half of the cities had a Marine assigned to them.
In addition, the Marines held several speaking engagements and organized physical training for those who desired the challenge. Throughout the week various recreational and physical activities were scheduled and for the few that were brave enough, the physical activity was organized by the Marines present.
The speaking engagements included seminars on careers in the Marine Corps, Marine Corps aviation, and leadership in combat. Hundreds of the participants attended these seminars and as the week continued.
“I don’t think Boys’ State would have been the same without you and the Marines there,” said Phil Azzari, a statesman to Roman. “Personally, you really showed me what true confidence and pride in our country is.”
Next year the Marines would like an increased presence.
“I definitely recommend more involvement,” Roman said. “One Marine per group would be optimal.”
“The lessons I learned from you and the other counselors during this past week will help me throughout my life,” Azzari said. “I cannot thank you enough for taking time away from your family to volunteer and help us. Just in case you were wondering if it was worth it, I can assure you that it was for me. Boys’ State was a very humbling experience for me. I always thought of myself as a leader, but you and the Marines showed me what true leadership is, more than the other counselors could have.”
On June 22, the statesmen graduated from the rigorous regimen and hope to become New Jersey’s future leaders. Hopefully, with the honor, courage and commitment instilled by the Marines throughout the week.