TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) – An elite program for distinguished, rising high school seniors has returned to the University of Alabama after a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The American Legion Boys State program, now in its 84th year, was kicked off by Governor Kay Ivey on Sunday featuring select high school candidates preparing to become community leaders.
“No one has ever made a difference without first deciding that they were willing to be the difference,” Ivey said. “No matter where you see yourselves, I challenge you to see yourself as a citizen-servant, working for the good of your communities.”
This year’s Boys State features last year’s and this year’s distinguished high school leaders – a group of more than 600 from all around Alabama.
Kendrick Duncan of Russellville is a 2021 high school graduate. He was selected to participate last year, but the pandemic halted those plans – not his drive to attend this time around.
“A lot of guys before me that I’ve always looked up to got a chance to go to Boys State so it always meant a lot to me to be in the same position as them,” Duncan said.
This is the first time in the program’s history that two grades of high school candidates overlapped, but it didn’t take away from the key message organizers want to resonate with these young men.
“The most important quality of a leader is selflessness and understanding that you’re not trying to better yourself, per se, but you’re trying to better everyone that you’re in charge of,” Duncan said.
Boys State Director Judge Pete Johnson said these young men are selected because they’re good students and leaders. He said he doesn’t want them to be content, but rather to think about and understand issues that impact their communities.
“They don’t need to wait until they finish high school to make a difference in their school, in their community,” Johnson said. “These kids are going to go home and make a real difference, and they’ll be making a difference in their community for the rest of their lives.”
Although Duncan had to wait one extra year and is now headed to college, he never wants to stop learning.
“There’s no limit to how much you can learn about being a leader and I feel like this is going to help a lot,” Duncan said.
After college at Auburn, Duncan plans to use what he learns here about making connections to set up clinics in third world countries as a general surgeon.