An eventful graduation on Friday capped another successful week at American Legion Jersey Boys State, the 73rd 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 3,000 statesmen, their families and friends, Legionnaires, and staff members ate and took part in a final Retreat ceremony. Family Day, now in its 16th 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 was given to Eisenhower County, led by Senior City Counselors Jaimee Banks and Tim Lecras and Mayors Ammar Eltigani [Pierce City #13] of North Bergen (Hudson County), Post #33 and Jacob Hamburger [Buchanan City #14] of Cresskill (Bergen County), Post #21. The Walter and Evelyn Howell Award for Best City was given to Van Buren City, led by Senior City Counselor Joe Gianndrea and Mayor Justin Manne [Van Buren City #7] of Mahwah (Bergen County), Post #531. 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 a speech from U.S. Senator and ALJBS Alumnus Bob Menendez. Menendez stressed the value of the program and admonished the delegates to continue pursuing great things. "This is a unique and fulfilling accomplishment you will remember all of your life," said Menendez. "I always remember it."
At the end of his speech, Menendez announced Joseph Stillwell [Monroe City #5] of Hamilton (Mercer County), Post #31 and Ashwin Bindra [Monroe City #5] of Princeton (Mercer County), Post #76 as the ALJBS representatives to Boys Nation. Kurtis Boyd [Jackson City #6] of Denville (Morris County), Post #423 and Brian Burns [Polk City #10] of Haddon Township (Camden County), Post #230 were announced as alternates.
The Todd Eaton Award was presented to Tyler Sindel [Johnson City #16] of Brick (Ocean County), Post #348. 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 Brenden Swanik [Fillmore City #12] of Moorestown (Burlington County), Post #42. The Vreeland Award is presented to the delegate who has best exemplified dedication and achievement in the Boys State program. Gordon Vreeland, who served at 54 consecutive sessions of Boys State, made a special return to present the award.
The Samsung Scholarship was presented to Peter Davin [Hayes City #18] of Kinnelon (Morris County), Post #154. The Scholarship is given to one New Jersey delegate each year, who is then entered into the scholarship pool with delegates from all other Boys State programs. In 2016, Ryan Zuzulock of West Deptford won a $20,000 scholarship from this program.
Dean of Americanism Joe Demyon was awarded 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. Joe has been on staff for over 10 years in a variety of roles and currently coordinates retreat, the graduation flag ceremony, trips to a local military museum, and other project throughout the week. Former ALJBS Director Ken Groome, the grandson of founding member Harry Groome, also made a special trip to present the award.
Be sure to check us out 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, including Brigadier General John DiNapoli and Charles Wiley. Our Instagram has all your favorite photos and our Twitter feed features videos and other content as well. All Alumni of the 2018 program will receive a complimentary yearbook full of photos taken at the session later this summer.
For those interested in returning as a member of our volunteer staff for 2019 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 16-21, 2019.
Congratulations to all our winners and to all our statesmen for completing a successful 2018 ALJBS Session!