An eventful graduation on Friday capped another successful week at American Legion Jersey Boys State, the 72nd session in the program’s history. Boys Nation Senators were elected and announced, exams were completed, graduation certificates were handed out, awards were presented, and families, statesmen, and staff members enjoyed lunch together.
Before the graduation ceremony, ALJBS hosted Family Day. Over 3,500 statesmen, their families and friends, Legionnaires, and staff members ate and took part in a final Retreat ceremony. Family Day, now in its 15th year, is sponsored by the New Jersey Boys State Foundation and provides a unique opportunity for statesmen, their parents, and their friends to meet and interact with the friends they’ve made during the weeklong ALJBS program as well as the volunteer staff of ALJBS.
During Family Day, the Harold and Lillian Eaton Award for Best County was given to Schwartzkopf County, led by Senior City Counselors Steve Pizzola and Andy Bilarczyk and Mayors Ankit Patel [Grant City #17] of Hasbrouck Heights (Bergen County), Post #106 and Benjamin Daniels [Hayes City #18] of Edison (Middlesex County), Post #324. The Walter and Evelyn Howell Award for Best City was given to Jefferson City, led by Tim Lecras and Joshua Liss [Jefferson City #3] of Barrington (Camden County), Post #38. Director Bagatelle commended the city and county for their hard work throughout the week and awarded each a special guidon to carry in at graduation.
Graduation was highlighted by speeches from both Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and U.S. Senator and ALJBS Alumnus Bob Menendez. Guadagno highlighted the work of parents and caregivers, thanked the American Legion for all they have sacrificed and for putting on the weeklong program, and challenged the delegates to rise above the current level of discourse as they confront the challenges facing our nation. Menendez stressed the value of the program and admonished the delegates to continue pursuing great things.
At the end of his speech, Menendez announced Tyler Holder [Van Buren City #7] of Dumont (Bergen County), Post #128 and Yunshen Li [Polk City #10] of Gloucester City (Gloucester County), Post #72 as the ALJBS representatives to Boys Nation. Gregory Petrov [Jefferson City #3] of Princeton (Mercer County), Post #76 and Chris Zuniga [Hayes City #18] of Passaic (Passaic County), Post #121 were announced as alternates.
The Todd Eaton Award was presented to Stephen Rampolla [Grant City #17] of West Milford (Passaic County), Post #289. The Eaton Award is presented to the delegate who best represents the spirit of the ALJBS program, who has not won the accolades and races that others have but has selflessly given of himself to help others achieve their goals.
The Gordon A. Vreeland Award for best delegate was presented to Spencer Cowen [Jackson City #6] of North Caldwell (Essex County), Post #185. The Vreeland Award is presented to the delegate who has best exemplified dedication and achievement in the Boys State program.
Assistant Dean of Staff Justin Gianndrea received the Harry V. Groome Award. The Groome Award is given annually and honors the most outstanding staff member of the all-volunteer staff of American Legion Jersey Boys State. Many of the staff volunteer their time in preparation throughout the year during the "off-season" for the weeklong program. Justin, a 2002 delegate from Sicklerville, served on staff for his 15th consecutive year, mentoring city counselors and serving as a senior city counselor, as well as serving as a trustee of the New Jersey Boys State Foundation.
Be sure to visit us on Facebook. We have loaded many of our pictures within our Photo Albums there, as well, our City Photos and more will be loaded on our Picture Page. Be sure to check out all of our Daily Update Videos, and other videos highlighting our amazing speakers this year - from Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi and Charles Wiley to Director Bagatelle and US Senator Bob Menendez. Our Instagram has all your favorite photos and our Twitter feed features videos and other content as well. All Alumni of the 2017 program will receive a complimentary DVD full of photos and videos taken at the session later this summer.
For those interested in returning as a member of our volunteer staff for 2018 and beyond, please click here to submit a Junior Assistant counselor application. Candidates will be identified this winter and invited to next year’s session June 17–22, 2018.
Also, we invite everyone to come out to the fifth annual Jersey Boys State 5K and Fun Walk on Saturday, August 26, at 9:00am at Veterans Park (Hamilton, NJ). It's an excellent opportunity for a summer reunion for you and your fellow statesme. To sign up or learn more, go to njbsf.org/5krace.
Congratulations to all our winners and to all our statesmen for completing a successful 2017 ALJBS Session!