It’s been a long time since an Indian Valley student has been chosen to represent the region at the American Legion’s annual Boys’ State Conference. This year Greenville High School junior Harlan Savala will be going representing District 3, comprised of Plumas, Sierra, Modoc and Lassen counties.
The weeklong event will have about 1,000 young men descending on the state capitol the third week of June.
The conference gives high school boys an opportunity to learn in a hands-on participatory way the operations and functions of city, county and state government in a representative democracy.
They set up a “model” government and are assigned political parties, offices and departments within a government. They learn how it functions, how it may be lobbied, how organization and coalitions are built, and other aspects of government. They are given topics to research and create positions around.
Two delegates from each state are then chosen to represent the state at the Boys State Nation in Washington D.C. in July.
Male students who have completed their junior year are chosen through an interview process with local Posts. High schools make recommendations to the Post for who might be chosen for an interview.
For GHS Principal Traci Cockerill the recommendation for Harlan Savala came easy. “I see leadership qualities in him that he might not yet see in himself,” said Cockerill at a recent Indian Valley collaborative meeting.
Roundhouse Council Executive Director Mary Joseph agreed immediately. “He is already a leader in the making and it would be so good for him to expand his horizons and opportunities.”
Local American Legion member and vice commander, Cliff Ginger is happy that his grandson was chosen for the honor and opportunity.
Savala’s teachers also saw it as a great pick, according to Cockerill.
For his part, Savala feels ready for this next step. He’s been captain of sports teams and he has participated in one of the bi-annual American Indian Education Conference — which took place in Los Angeles last year.
He hasn’t done anything like this before, however, and is looking forward to expanding his interests in politics and leadership.
Marj Goosey of American Legion Post 568 in Greenville spent the better part of the last few months advocating the program and approaching different schools to recommend and encourage students to apply to be delegates.
The American Legion Post could have chosen up to three delegates from Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra counties. Quincy High School sent a delegate last year, and Loyalton High School the year before. But low interest amongst the region’s high school students and lack of publicity culminated in having just one student sent this year.
The cost of travel and living expenses of the week in Sacramento are paid for by the local Post.
Goosey remarked that only sending one meant that the region released the two remaining spots so that other areas could use the spots instead. She worries they may not get three spots in future years.
Supervisor Kevin Goss reportedly was also once a delegate when he was a junior in high school.
Two American Legion members founded the program in 1935 in Illinois as a response to what they saw as a political threat — socialist youth camps. The American Legion Auxiliary also sponsors a similar, but separate program for high school girls called Girls’ State.