After another successful week, the 71st session of American Legion Jersey Boys State concluded on Friday. 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 a picnic lunch. Like the week, the day was eventful but rewarding.
Before the graduation ceremony, the Family Day picnic was held on the mall at Rider University. Over 3,500 statesmen, their families and friends, Legionnaires, and staff members ate, listened to a concert by the Jersey Boys State Band, cheered the Jersey Boys State 5K Warmup, and took part in a final Retreat ceremony. Family Day, now in its 14th 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 Nimitz County, led by Senior City Counselors Andy Bilarczyk and Steve Pizzola and Mayors Jonathan Chao [Monroe City #5] of Princeton (Mercer County), Post #31 and Kory Hatton [Jackson City #6] of South Amboy (Middlesex County), Post #211. The Walter and Evelyn Howell Award for Best City was given to Monroe City, led by Bilarczyk and Chao. 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 keynote speech from U.S. Senator and ALJBS Alumnus Bob Menendez, who stressed the value of the program and admonished the delegates to continue pursuing great things.
At the end of his speech, Senator Menendez announced Charles Curtis-Thomas [Jackson City #6] of Willingboro (Burlington County), Post #79 and Anthony Joseph [Hayes City #18] of Browns Mills (Burlington County), Post #294 as the ALJBS representatives to Boys Nation. Vamshi Eppanapally [Hayes City #18] of Livingston (Essex County), Post #201 and Andrew Polinski [Jefferson City #3] of East Brunswick (Middlesex County), Post #344 were announced as alternates.
Following Senator Menenedez, NJ Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno gave her keynote address. Highlights of her speech include having statesmen appreciate both their parents and caregivers, as well as the American Legion for all they have sacrificed and for putting on the weeklong program. She also reminded the audience of the words of John F. Kennedy - "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
The Todd Eaton Award was presented to Tariq Ali [Jackson City #6] of Manchester (Ocean County), Post #502. 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 Charles Curtis-Thomas [Jackson City #6] of Willingboro (Burlington County), Post #79. The Vreeland Award is presented to the delegate who has best exemplified dedication and achievement in the Boys State program.
Assistant Dean of Technology Bryce Liskovec 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. Bryce, a 2003 delegate to the ALJBS program from Whitehouse Station, served on staff for his 13th consecutive year, becoming an indispensable part of the Technology Office at ALJBS as well as serving as a trustee of the New Jersey Boys State Foundation.
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 - 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 2016 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 2017 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 18-23, 2017.
Also, we invite everyone to come out to the fourth annual Jersey Boys State 5K and Fun Walk on Saturday, August 20, at 9:00am at Veterans Park (Hamilton, NJ). An excellent opportunity for a summer reunion for you and your fellow statesmen; 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 2016 ALJBS Session!