WESTFIELD- American Legion Post 124 will host a skate night at the Amelia Park Ice Arena on Friday, April 19th at 7 p.m. to help fund Hampden County high school juniors hoping to attend the Legion’s Boys and Girls State programs.
The programs, which started in 1935, is meant to teach high schoolers about civics and the operations of their state and local governments, according to the American Legion website. In the programs, the students have to run for a local, county, or state political office and solve problems associated with those positions.
“We’re going to have an ice-skating event to try to raise more money to send all of the students who apply for the program,” said Gene Theroux, Past Commander of American Legion Post 124.
Theroux said that, in the last three years, a total of 17 local students have been sent to the program each year. In a lot of cases there are more boys sent than girls, but last year saw more girls than boys being enrolled. He added that representatives of Westfield High School believe this year will be a “banner year” for the program. This year, St. Mary’s High School in Westfield sent a request for three girls and five boys to be sent to Boy’s and Girl’s State.
This year’s Massachusetts Boy’s State program will take place from June 16th to the 22nd at Stonehill College in Easton. The Girl’s State program will be at the same place from June 15th to the 21st. Theroux said that there were four girls from Southwick High School that were interested in attending, but they were only able to fund two.
He hopes that the skate-night will allow them to sponsor an additional Junior from Southwick and one more from Westfield. To do so, at least $700 would have to be raised. Theroux asked that those who attend make a donation of $10, which will include a skate rental for the one-hour skate night. There will also be raffles held during the event.
Each year, Mayor Brian Sullivan, State Senator Don Humason, and State Representative John Velis sponsor one student each to attend the program. Theroux said that attending the program greatly increases one’s chances of success in being accepted to any of the United States Military Academies.
“It’s incredible how focused these young citizens are,” said Theroux, “If you go into the service academy, and haven’t done Boy’s or Girl’s State, it minimizes your chances.”
In 2016, four Westfield High School students who had attended the programs had been accepted to Ivy League universities.