The 69th Session of American Legion Jersey Boys State drew to a close on Friday. As usual, a plethora of activities took place. Boys Nation Senators were elected, the Best City and Best County were revealed, the State Police offered a demonstration, Family Day allowed parents, relatives, and friends a chance to experience the program, and the week was closed by a graduation featuring some of New Jersey's highest elected officials.
Before the graduation ceremony, delegates and their families enjoyed reconnecting at the Family Day picnic, held on the Rider University campus mall. Over 3,000 delegates, relatives, staff members, and Legionnaires enjoyed food and fellowship, the 2014 ALJBS 5K, a demonstration by the New Jersey State Police TEAMS Unit, and a retreat ceremony. Family Day is sponsored by the New Jersey Boys State Foundation and is now in its 12th year. It is a unique opportunity for the statesmen, their parents, and their friends to meet the friends they made throughout the weeklong ALJBS program, as well as a chance for parents to meet the volunteer staff of ALJBS.
Also before the graduation ceremony, the Harold and Lillian Eaton Award for Best County was presented to Bradley County (County 800). Bradley County was led by Senior City Counselors Andrew Bilarcyk and Kevin DeMille and Mayors Gabriel Silverio [Lincoln City #15] of Lyndhurst (Bergen County), Post #139 and Chuck Smith [Johnson City #16] of Ocean City (Atlantic County), Post #531. The Walter and Evelyn Howell Award for Best City was given to Adams City, led by Senior City Counselor Joe Gianndrea and Mayor Connor Briggs [Adams City #2] of Mountainside (Union County), Post #3. Each city was commended by Director Bagatelle for their hard work and dedication throughout the week and received a special guidon to carry in at graduation.
Graduation was highlighted by speeches from U.S. Senator and ALJBS Alumnus Bob Menendez and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Both speakers emphasized the value of the program. "This is a unique and fulfilling accomplishment you will remember all of your life," said Menendez. "I always remember it." Guadagno concurred. "What you have learned is the American way, government action, and you will take that with you for the rest of your lives. You have to step up to the plate and use the skills you learned this week to better the world."
During graduation, Brian Doyle [Madison City #4] of Audubon (Camden County), Post #262 and Andrew Chen [Jefferson City #3] of Plainsboro (Mercer County), Post #76 were announced as the ALJBS representatives to Boys Nation. Alex Kochanik [Tyler City #9] of Bridgewater (Somerset County), Post #12 and Nathan Gupta [Jackson City #6] of Denville (Morris County), Post #390 were announced as alternates.
The Todd Eaton Award was presented to Jake Tennenbaum [Johnson City #16] of Cherry Hill (Camden County), Post #372. The Eaton Award is given to the delegate who best represents the spirit of the program, who has not won the accolades and races that others have but have given of themselves to help others achieve their goals.
The Gordon Vreeland Best Delegate Award was given to Michael Bizzoco [Adams City #2] of Sicklerville (Camden County), Post #372. The Vreeland Award is given to the delegate who has best exemplified dedication and achievement in the Boys State program.
Anthony "Tony" Lori was the recipient of the Harry V. Groome Award. The Groome Award is given annually and honors the most outstanding staff member of the all-volunteer staff of Jersey Boys State. Many of the staff volunteer their time in preparation throughout the year during the "off-season" for the weeklong program. Tony is the Chief Expediter of ALJBS and has served on Staff for 27 years. He is a former American Legion Department Commander and is loved and respected by all his fellow staff members.
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. Our Twitter feed also features some Vine videos taken throughout the week. All Alumni of the program will also 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 2014 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 21-26, 2015.
Congratulations to all our winners and to all our delegates for completing a successful 2014 ALJBS Session!