Each year the Morgan Lions Club sponsors up to three students to represent Morgan High School at the American Legion Boys and Girls State. This year those student delegates were Jacob Rice, Brayden Stegelmeier and Shay Skidmore. Out of the 20,000 Boys State and Girls State delegates, only two boys and two girls from each of the 49 participating states are chosen to act as Senators at the American Legion Boys and Girls Nation. Rice, who served as a city councilman at Utah Boys State, was one of the 98 elected boys, thus earning him the privilege to travel to Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas from July 17-24. The trip even afforded him the opportunity to shake hands with President of the United States Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House. Meeting the president of the United States was an eye-opening moment. It is an experience that will deeply affect my entire life, said Rice. There was a moment of awe, then a moment of fear, and then a moment of realization, the realization that I am shaking hands with the most influential person in the free world and that he is a human just like me. It inspired me to become the best I can be and enable others to become the best they can be. During the 2015 Boys Nation convention, delegates toured the National Mall, including the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall and Korean War Memorials. They presented a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and visited Capitol Hill for meetings with their states U.S. senators and representatives. They had a private tour of the Pentagon and heard from the secretary of the Navy. Boys Nation includes activities that focus on helping each elected boy learn the structure and function of the federal government. At the event, young lawmakers hold a caucus at the beginning of the session, organize into committees and conduct hearings on bills submitted by program delegates. Rice proclaimed, There were so many things I enjoyed at Boys Nation. It is virtually impossible to pick a favorite. I enjoyed meeting our elected officials, the mock senate sessions, the tours around D.C., and the relationships that I formed that will last a lifetime. Student senators learn the proper method of handling bills, organizing party conventions and nominating and electing a president and vice president. I learned about the workings of the federal government. But more than that, I learned a mindset of service and what it means to become a part of a system that does so much good in the world. I gained an understanding that government works! That the Constitution is the best and most successful experiment of government in human history, declared Rice. At this session, Rice was especially proud to have put forth a bill that was passed and signed by the Boys Nation president. The bill included adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The bill ensured protection from denial of housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, while at the same time ensuring separation of church and state by taking federal funding away from a religious organizations public program if they choose to deny services based on gender identity or sexual orientation, according to Rice. According to the American Legion website, since Boys Nation began in 1946, a number of its graduates have been elected to public office including presidents, congressmen, state governors and state legislators. Famous Boys Nation alumni include former President Bill Clinton, actor Donal Logue, Governors Chris Christie and Scott Walker, and Senators Mike Lee and Tom Cotton. Notable Boys State alumni include Tom Brokaw, Michael Jordan, Rush Limbaugh, Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Neil Armstrong, Roger Ebert and Justice Samuel Alito. Rice hopes to follow in those footsteps and run for public office himself someday. We are all involved in politics. We should all vote and communicate with our elected officials. The only way a democratic -republic can be legitimate is through the participation of voters, reminded Rice. This stalwart scholar is well on his way to achieving his goals. At Morgan High, Rice serves as the Speech and Debate president, Service Club and National Honors Society president, vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America, and executive vice president of the National Technical Honors Society. Rice has a 4.0 GPA and is ranked No. 1 in the class of 2016. After high school Rice hopes to obtain one of a few highly coveted appointments to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., aiming to double major in economics and political science. Rice encouraged his fellow classmates to be anxiously involved in the political process. I think it is essential to empower the youth of America to become involved in the system that is supposed to serve them. How is the government supposed to represent youth and advocate for youth if they do not know how we feel towards the legislation and decisions they are making? he said. I encourage youth to talk to their representatives and senators about the issues. To do that, all you have to do is research what bills are being discussed and then call your representatives or visit them.
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