Peter Ciccone and Zachary McGinniss learned all about the intricacies of local, county and state government during the American Legion’s highly regarded Boys State program at SUNY Morrisville this past summer. The incoming Huntington High School seniors were among a select group of teenagers across the state chosen for the initiative, which dates to 1935.
Recommended for the program by Joseph Leavy, Huntington’s chairman of humanities for grades 7-12, Messrs. Ciccone and McGinniss were interviewed and chosen to participate by the American Legion’s Greenlawn Post 360.
“American Legion Boys State is a week-long program that immerses high school youth in citizenship and leadership training,” according to the organization’s website. “They learn the practical aspects of government as it exists in New York State and come to recognize that the individual is integral to the character and success of government. They also participate in physical fitness, teamwork and other activities, under the guidance of American Legion counselors and U.S. Marines.”
Morning assemblies included visits by Congressman and state legislators, attorneys and other professionals, who provided insight into their positions. Each of them spoke highly concerning the value of the Boys State program and emphasized how to be the best Americans possible.
“At Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens,” according to the American Legion. “The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses and recreational programs.”
The Huntington duo completed a very intensive program with nearly every minute of every day accounted for. “Boys State was an amazing experience,” Mr. Ciccone said. “Our bus arrived late the first day so I was sort of thrown into all the madness of unpacking and learning drill commands all at once, without much time to breathe. My roommate had been there for hours so he taught me the basics of how to make my bed properly and keep our room orderly and up to our Marine’s standards. Throughout the week I made many friends from all over New York.”
Mr. Ciccone’s senior year course lineup includes Advanced Placement Psychology, AP Literature and Composition, AP Microeconomics/Macroeconomics, AP Calculus BC, AP Biology, band, Project Adventure and a career internship with math teacher Monica Racz in a geometry class.
The teenager is in his fourth year of participation with Huntington High School’s drama club and marching band and Natural Helpers. “I hope to take part in my fourth drama production this fall and my fourth musical in the spring,” Mr. Ciccone said.
The clarinet section leader in the Blue Devil marching band, Mr. Ciccone is also a member of Huntington’s National Honor Society chapter as well as the Tri-M Music, English and Social Studies honor societies and the Key Club.
Mr. Ciccone was one of a small group of New York Boys State participants considered for Boys Nation in Washington, DC. “Though I did not get selected, it showed me that my staff sergeant and adult leaders saw qualities of leadership in me that I did not see in myself,” he said.
The senior found his time at SUNY Morrisville to be well spent. “I came out of the program with a much greater understanding of our state’s political system and a much greater respect for our nation’s military,” said Mr. Ciccone, who even received an offer an opportunity to take the bar exam. “I learned from a state judge about New York’s court system and learned commands from a Marine how to march like a Marine, which added to the military aspect of the week.”
Mr. McGinniss was equally bullish about the value of his participation. “It was a great experience for me to learn about almost every aspect of our government on the state level,” he said. “I got to serve as my city’s clerk, as well as my county’s chairman and district attorney. This gave me the opportunity to learn about all branches of government. We also had US Marines in charge of our county, so I got to experience on a reduced scale what it’s like being at Parris Island for Marine boot camp. Overall, I really appreciated the diversity of thought and getting to meet people from all walks of life.”
Currently enrolled in Advanced Placement Chemistry, AP Calculus BC, AP US Government and Politics, AP Microeconomics/Macroeconomics and AP Research, Mr. McGuiness will be writing for the Dispatch, the high school student newspaper and working closely with Social Studies Honor Society faculty advisor Kenneth Donovan as president of the organization.
Messrs. Ciccone and McGinniss are set for a sensational senior year and as it progresses, the duo will always remember their experience at SUNY Morrisville.