For the first time in 40 years, a Kentucky Boys State participant sponsored by American Legion Fort Campbell Post 233 has been elected to represent Kentucky at Boys Nation in Washington D.C.
John Cogbill, an incoming senior at Fort Campbell High School, is one of 98 young men representing their home states during the national-level conference through Saturday.
Boys State is an American Legion educational program designed to introduce boys to local government.
Boys State 2019 was hosted June 2 to 7 at Campbellsville University. American Legion Fort Campbell Post 233 sponsored 16 boys to attend the program. Tuition per each student costs about $225, said Dennis Floden, commander of American Legion Fort Campbell Post 233. Post 233 sponsored 11th grade boys from FCHS, Hopkinsville High School and other local high schools.
"We are happy to be able to sponsor those kids so they are able to achieve their goals in life. It's really all about them," Floden said. "We are just fortunate enough to be able to sponsor them and be able to provide them with financial assistance."
This year, 136 boys graduated from Kentucky Boys State.
"Essentially what you do is run a mock government, Cogbill said. "You are separated into two parties and you do primary elections. Once the primaries are done, you move into general elections."
During Boys State. Cogbill was elected lieutenant governor by his peers.
"The election was really cool because they sent up actual voting machines and we were able to fill out a ballot. It was very official. It made the simulation feel more real," Cogbill said.
Throughout the week, Cogbill worked on the executive side of things.
"I was working hand-in-hand with the Boy's State governor signing off on bills," he said. "It was definitely a busy week. We were moving full speed ahead the whole time."
During the program, Cogbill championed a hydro-electric power bill that was getting passed through.
"Basically what we were doing is incentivizing new hydro-electric industries to move into Kentucky and supplement the dying coal industry," he said.
The last day of the program, all of the boys traveled to Frankfort to work with Kentucky Legislators at the Capitol Building.
"That day was really cool, because it made us feel like we really were part of the political system in Kentucky," Cogbill said.
At the end of the week, participants and supervisors elected two boys from a pool of 12 to represent Kentucky at Boys Nation.
"While I am at Boy's Nation I am going to run for president," Cogbill said. "That's always been a goal of mine. I've been doing a lot of research and drafting a couple speeches. I think that would be really amazing."
Even if he isn't elected president at Boys Nation, Cogbill said the experience will be invaluable.
"I know that just going into Boy's Nation is already a win," he said. "If I end up sitting on the senate I'll be just as happy as if I were president. The entire experience is going to be amazing, no matter what."
Cogbill said his role in Model United Nations at FCHS prepared him for this summer of political education.
"You could pull me aside any day on the street and ask me how I feel about MUN and I could talk about it for hours," he said. "But especially when you are going into the political realm, public speaking in general, leadership as a whole … MUN covers all those bases and I couldn't speak better about FCHS' program and the school as a whole. I'm a better person because of it."
MUN set Cogbill up for success and Boys State and Boys Nation, he said.
"(When you are in MUN) you are more comfortable with public speaking. You better understand how politics work. You just understand how to play the game … how to meet people and get your name out there," he said.
As an incoming senior, Cogbill plans to apply to the United States Military Academy, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Those schools really look highly at Boy's State. They like to see you are spending your summer productively," he said.
If he does not get accepted to the United States Military Academy, Cogbill plans to join the Reserve Officers' Training Corps to commission into the Army as an officer. His long-term aspiration is to become an astronaut, he said.
Floden said everyone at Post 233 is proud of all the Boys State participants and what they accomplished.
"It really is great," Floden said. "It's just another one of the great things (Post 233) has achieved in the past two years. We've done a lot for the community here recently and this is just another one of those things we are proud to be a part of."
Floden said a lot of effort goes into the fundraising to sponsor each of the boys.
"Our goal next year is to be able to afford to send 25 boys," he said. "There are kids out there who want to go."
Throughout the year, Post 233 conducts multiple fundraisers such as poker runs, charitable gaming and raffles to benefit Boys State scholarships.