Through the generous support of Robert Rowland Post 523 of the American Legion in Lodi, seven Cloverleaf High School students had the opportunity to spend eight days immersed in the fundamental principles of democratic government at American Legion Buckeye Boys State.
Founded in 1936, the program gives high school juniors the chance not only to learn about how government works, but to experience it by running for office in mock elections for city, county and state positions. They spend several days at Miami University each June, working in simulated government positions, where they get hands-on lessons in budgeting, staffing, the legislative process, communication and more.
Peyton Cieslinski – now a Cloverleaf senior – successfully campaigned to become the Galbraith County auditor and took away valuable real-world experience.
“One of the biggest skills I learned from my experiences at Boys State was that of public speaking – and communication in general,” Cieslinski said. “During nearly every day, I had to communicate in one form or another. Whether that be with campaigning for my position as county auditor, or by planning with my team what needed to be done for the day, I needed to know how to communicate. Similarly, my job also required me to be very organized with paper forms and scheduling.”
Joining Cieslinski at Buckeye Boys State were CHS classmates Thomas Blaha, Dylan Bresnahan, Talon Gasper, Bradach Keller, Nathan Patterson and Griffin Petrocci.
“The experience as a whole has been absolutely invaluable to me, teaching me skills – such as the aforementioned communication and organizational skills – that I hope to utilize both in my future career as a civil engineer, but also in my personal life,” added Cieslinski. “From an individual standpoint, I believe this will allow me to be a more confident, outgoing and organized person going forward.”
Petrocci wasn’t ultimately successful in his campaign to become a county prosecuting attorney, but it led him to the Boys State job fair, where he still landed a position in the legal field.
“Fortunately for me, I had passed my bar exam and was able to get a job to work under the attorney general,” Petrocci said. “Under the attorney general, it was our job to represent state departments in court. Believe it or not, the governor got sued by the opposing party's candidate and it was our job to represent and defend him in court. I also had some smaller cases throughout the week.”
A big part of Buckeye Boys State is the experience of meeting new people, making connections and learning to work together. Petrocci found the process of making new friends and building relationships one of the most rewarding aspects of the experience.
“Buckeye Boys State will forever have an impact on me; as they say: ‘A week to shape a lifetime.’ I learned a ton about the government and the everyday process of it. I also gained an interest in the judicial branch and even became a lawyer. As I mentioned, I created a tight group of friends that I still talk to and plan on continuing to stay in touch with. I will forever be grateful for the American Legion and Buckeye Boys State for my unforgettable experience.”Juniors who are interested in Buckeye Boys State or Buckeye Girls State should contact CHS school counselor Mrs. Conrad, who works with the Lodi American Legion Post to help students navigate the months-long selection process, which begins in December.
Among other requirements, candidates must demonstrate leadership, scholastic achievement and good citizenship, as well as an interest in U.S. history, government and civics. Students and their parents must complete a rigorous online application process, said Post Adjutant Dan Goodrow.
“This is an important step that requires discipline and commitment unique to the Buckeye Boys State program,” Goodrow said.
The Lodi post is named in memory of Maj. Gen. Robert Richard “Dick” Rowland, a 1935 graduate of Lodi High School, who flew 203 combat missions in the Pacific Theater during World War II and went on to a long and distinguished leadership career in the U.S. Air Force.
The approximately $300 cost per student for Buckeye Boys State is funded by the post, which hosts several annual fundraisers that are open to the public – including fish and steak fries, chicken dinners, clambakes and pancake breakfasts. In addition to its 80+ year commitment to Buckeye Boys State, the American Legion has a 100+ year connection to Scouting. The Legion is community-focused, Goodrow said.
Well-known Buckeye Boys State alumni include astronaut Neil Armstrong, former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and Medina native Bill Batchelder, as well as many other notable leaders. Maybe a Cloverleaf graduate will be among them some day.
“I am extremely glad that I decided to take a chance and attend American Legion Buckeye Boys State,” Petrocci said. “I recommend that everyone given the opportunity should take advantage of this amazing experience!”