Jessie Meredith, daughter of Julie Meredith of Mayville and Tom Meredith of Sherman, developed a renewed appreciation for her country, a new understanding of the workings of government, and greater respect for the men and women who are involved in governmental processes.
Getting to know her fellow Girls’ State citizens was a significant part of the experience as well. “I’ve never had more fun with a group of teenage girls,” Meredith said. “I truly believe they are the best young ladies New York has to offer.”
The other girls “inspired me to push the limits I previously placed on myself,” she said.
She particularly enjoyed the flag raising and lowering ceremonies, explaining each was made unique through a poem, song or other presentation by Girls’ State citizens. Guest speakers included women leaders from the Armed Forces who shared their experiences of being women in a man’s profession. They were also inspirational speakers on Americanism.
Developing leadership and teamwork skills was an important part of Boys’ State for Luke Smith, son of Nancy and Mark Smith of Mayville.
“Teamwork is important in government,” Smith said, “and working as a team you can get things done much faster.”
Jed Walsh, son of Shelly and Tom Walsh of Mayville, believes the experience helped him develop public speaking skills. He especially enjoyed the many interesting guest speakers, whose presentations ranged from their particular roles in government, to the Holocaust, to the importance of communicating through public speaking.
The boys learned a practical skill, too — how to make their beds. After a demonstration by a Marine Corporal, all the students learned quickly, because if it was not properly made, the bed was ripped apart and the boy had to start again. Walsh is proud that he never had to re-make his bed.
Meeting over 1,000 boys and interacting with them in “city,” “county” and “state” government processes helped both Smith and Walsh make new friends from across the state. Smith enjoyed the experience of electing boys from his “city” and “county” to various governmental positions. The citizens of Boys’ State elected Walsh both city treasurer and county judge.
Walsh particular enjoyed seeing the State Troopers, who rappelled down the building and demonstrated their trained dogs. For Smith, one of the highlights was getting up at 6 a.m. each morning for physical training exercises led by a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines also taught the boys to march; this is how they moved from one place to another on campus.
Smith has also attended a Rotary International student leadership program. He competes on the High School Bowl academic team, for which he received awards for outstanding achievement and dedication, and is treasurer of the French Club. He has earned an award for excellence in English, was named to the Dean’s List as a part time Jamestown Community College student, and has earned college credit for pre-engineering studies at Chautauqua Lake. He has repeatedly earned honor roll status and has earned an Academic Letter. Smith plays trumpet in the high school band and performed on stage in the high school musical “Footloose” and in the National Honor Society talent show. He is a scholar-athlete on the varsity soccer, bowling and golf teams, and he also plays varsity tennis.
Smith has volunteered at the Mayville ICE Festival and as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, and he has played in the band for Memorial Day services and provided special music for church services. He has been a participant and volunteer for the Cystic Fibrosis Walkathon and has helped with community dinners at the First Presbyterian Church of Westfield. As a member of the Leo Club, Smith has helped with spaghetti dinners and the White Cane Drive; he is the club treasurer and historian. Smith has participated in a geocaching group at the Chautauqua Institution, and with the French and Leo Clubs he has sung Christmas carols at area nursing homes.
“I am proud to have been part of the Boys’ State experience,” he said.
Smith is considering attending a college or university for technical studies or joining the military.
Throughout high school, Walsh has played baseball, football and hockey, earning numerous honors. Last year he was named Most Improved Linebacker and placed second in the state in varsity hockey competition. As a younger player, he was named a Second Team All-Star and Rookie of the Year in baseball and defensive MVP in football. He has assisted with the Thunderbird Baseball Clinics, is active in 4-H Club, and has volunteered at youth football and baseball programs.
Walsh would like to go into the military and enter the medical field.
He calls the Boys’ State experience “truly memorable. I made friends I will stay in touch with for years to come. I also learned many leadership qualities that will be used throughout my life.”
Meredith is a staff member of both the student newspaper, Liberator, and the yearbook. For two years she has been a member of Student Administration and has competed on the High School Bowl academic team. She is a member of the National Honor Society and is a Peer Educator, is active in the Spanish Club, and served on the prom committee. Meredith has competed on the varsity volleyball team for three years and has repeatedly been recognized for outstanding dedication on the team. She has also played softball and basketball.
Meredith was a 2010 Hugh O’Brian Youth Organization Ambassador and recently received the VFW Americanism Award presented by the Women’s Auxiliary. She has helped at the annual Halloween Fun Night sponsored by the Parent Teacher Council and organized and implemented an event to raise awareness and activism related to the conflicts in the Congo and Sudan.
Meredith plans to attend college in New York City to prepare for a career related to politics. She also looks forward to studying overseas.
Although she has grown up during a time of strife and controversy, Meredith says the Girls’ State experience “helped me realize I should never apologize for being a citizen of this great nation.”
Boys’ and Girls’ State are leadership action programs of The American Legion and Auxiliary. The citizenship training programs are designed to develop a working knowledge of government and inculcate individual responsibility to the community, state and nation.