High School seniors learn to lead the nation at Boys State Summer Program

NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - Inspired by a need to do good, 400 high school seniors are spending a week of their summer learning skills that could lead the nation.

"My grandfather was a senator and just seeing the process in how working with different people, you are able to change the community in a very effective way," said senior Austin Firmin.

During the American Legion Louisiana Boys State Program students or 'citizens' learn functions of government by doing.

"Every student is elected to a position in either the city or parish legislative level, and throughout the week they address real-world issues that local and state government officials would face," said Boys State staff member William Hogan.

On Tuesday, seven state and local officials stopped by to give students advice on their dream career paths.

One was President of the University of Louisiana System Dr. Jim Henderson, who pushed students toward securing their degree.

"1.5 Million adults in Louisiana have just a high school diploma," Dr. Henderson said. "You've got another 600,000 adults that have some college, but no degree."

Others gave advice on communication after taking part in multiple special sessions.

"They are not so special anymore," said Rep. Rob Shadoin. "But, as I told on the stage, we have lost the civility of debate to the acrimony of arguing with the point of not coming together. But, just being able to say my piece, that gets us nowhere."

However, the Legion's main point is to show youth the sacrifices in democracy.

"There is a lot of men that fought and died, and served to have the privilege for a free society, free government," said Boys State Program Chairman Philip Legendre.

The American Legion Auxiliary Girls State of Louisiana Program is happening this week as well. Both programs will come together on Friday to hear from Governor John Bel Edwards.

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