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Eight La Jolla students selected to American Legion Boys State program

The Bishop’s School student Ethan Chuang will join seven other La Jolla students at the upcoming American Legion Boys State.
(Courtesy of Jose Payne King)

Eight La Jolla students will be – virtually – travelling to our state’s capitol for the American Legion’s Boys State program this month for a hands-on, realistic experience in civic responsibility. Representing La Jolla schools and the American Legion La Jolla Post 275, the young men are: The Bishop’s School students Ethan Chuang, Advay Chandra and Nikhil Raisinghani; La Jolla High School students Kevin Steel, Charlie Lansky and Anthony Hall; and La Jolla Country Day School students Terentin Tran and Ricardo Cervera.

The Boys State program is a summer leadership and citizenship program for high school juniors, which focuses on exploring the mechanics of American government and politics. The program is sponsored by the American Legion.

The program is typically held on the campus of Sacramento State University for one week during June, with over 1,000 students from around the state. This year, the program will be held online.

Because of the new format, the cost to attend was reduced, and the American Legion’s local post was able to send eight students instead of the standard one or two. The participants are nominated by their school counselors, or sometimes self-nominate, based on their interest in the program. From there, the potential participants are interviewed by American Legion members and selected.

“We look for leaders that are academically successful, and this group was so, so impressive in their assertiveness and focus,” said Post 275 commander Jose Payne King. “We interviewed them and when we asked them questions, they presented themselves in a way that we knew they would represent us well. A lot of times, we get students that come in because someone told them to apply, but they aren’t that focused. But then some come in, and are ready and pumped up.”

The 2021 group, King said, “is assertive and knowledgeable, and are active in their schools. Some were in sports or were in clubs, school government or did community service.”

The Boys State program, started in 1935, “is to instill Americanism and citizenship in the participants,” King explained. “In a typical [non-pandemic] year, they would spend a week in Sacramento. They run for a [mock] office, they can be mayor of a city, a judge, a governor, they set up a whole government platform in which to participate. They play sports and get to meet everyone in Sacramento in terms in politics. The student that excels in the program goes to Boys Nation in Washington D.C. [and gets] to meet the president and other members of Congress.”

This year’s group, he added, already came into the interviews with ideas as to which political position they would like to run for, along with “ideas and intelligent questions,” King said. “That showed us they were prepared and excited.”

Boy, are they.

Ethan said he is participating in Boys State “in order to help enrich my knowledge of the government system, my rights as a citizen, as well as to expand my horizons. I am extremely honored to take part in such a prestigious program this year, and I look forward to learning how to actively participate and have a role in our government to improve the lives of my fellow citizens and make a difference.”

Nikhil added, “To have been selected for Boys State is a great honor and I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend the program. I originally wanted to participate in the program to learn more about what it means to be a good citizen in this country and to have a better understanding of what it means to be a leader in my own community.”

Representing the world of athletics, the La Jolla High School selectees play tennis, baseball, volleyball and others.

Terentin and Ricardo already delved into the world of civics when they created the Torrey Law Review, a high school-level law review that provides a place for fellow students to learn the legal writing process and generate interest in law in their school community, with a board of professionals and law school students, including a nonfiction author, a law professor, several national and international attorneys and LJCDS alumni.

King said supporting the Boys State program is part of the American Legion mission. The local post has been in La Jolla since 1924 to support San Diego’s veterans. “We advocate for veterans; sometimes we find vets that need shelter, ... some might need help with medical needs or compensation, so we point them in the right direction.” ◆