Fike students attend Boys State, Girls State

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Three Fike High School rising seniors have a deeper understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship after attending summer programs last month.

Eli Pope and Ryan Richardson attended the American Legion’s Tar Heel Boys State, and Caroline Searcy attended the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.

Both programs are a civics lesson about democracy in action and are open rising high school seniors in the top third of their class.

Tar Heel Boys State is sponsored by the American Legion Department of North Carolina. J.E Woodard interviewed Ryan Richardson and Eli Pope at the Wilson County Public Library. American Legion Post 13 sponsored them.

The American Legion Auxiliary Department of North Carolina sponsors American Legion Auxiliary Girls State. The program is an Americanism project of the Legion auxiliary. While the Girls State program is held in every state in the nation, North Carolina is the only state to have had Girls State for 80 consecutive years. Emily Cayton interviewed Caroline Searcy, and ALA Unit 13 sponsored her.

Cayton was also program director of ALA Girls State. A graduate of Beddingfield High School, Cayton taught math and science in Wilson County Schools for eight years and is an assistant professor at Campbell University.

Catawba College hosted Girls State June 9-15 and Boys State June 16-22. Both weeks are a practical study of the structure and operation of North Carolina state government. In a nonpartisan atmosphere, participants learn how state and local governments function and develop an understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship by creating and living under their own mock government. They elect officials, prepare a city charter and conduct city activities.

Richardson became his city’s manager and state parliamentarian. “My favorite part of Boys State was working with new people to solve real-world problems,” he said. “I learned you must be able to come to agreement on issues. We exchanged ideas and truly became friends.”

Each citizen is also a member of a fictitious political party —Nationalists and Federalists — that develops a party platform, conducts campaigns and elects officers. Voter registration is emphasized, as is the constructive use of civil discourse and well-run meetings following parliamentary procedure.

Searcy was her city’s charter commissioner and was elected secretary of state.

“To be among so many passionate, purposeful young women was empowering,” she said. “North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall conducted the state council installation, and as her counterpart in the Girls State structure, I sat with her at the final banquet and introduced her to the assembly. It was remarkable.”

Pope served on the board of elections and in the house of representatives.

“I really enjoyed the friendships that I made within both my city and party,” he said. “Working with other leaders helped me to get out of my comfort zone and speak up. I know the skills I honed will be valuable in the future.”

During Girls State final ceremonies, Cayton presented Searcy with the Samsung Scholarship Award. Samsung endowed a scholarship fund in 1996 to be administered by the American Legion to show appreciation for U.S. veterans who came to Korea’s aid during its struggle against communist forces. Searcy’s grandfather, Emerson P. Searcy, was a Navy veteran who received the Korean Service Medal with five stars.

“I am grateful to receive this scholarship, especially in light of its connection to my Papa’s service to our country,” Searcy said. “He would be very proud of me, as I am of him.”