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Canfield, Ursuline students learn at Buckeye Boys, Girls State

CANFIELD — This year, five students from Canfield High School and one from Ursuline High School attended Buckeye Girls State and Buckeye Boys State.

The weeklong outing is an American Legion event that gives participants a feel for how government functions on many levels. Buckeye Boys State started in 1936, and Buckeye Girls State followed in 1947.

According to Cathy Gagliardi, American Legion Post 177 Auxiliary representative, this year’s events were the week of June 9, with the boys taking part at Miami University and the girls at Bowling Green State University. The students come from any of Ohio’s 900 high schools and are sponsored by local American Legion posts.

The American Legion Auxiliary of Canfield and American Legion Post 177 selected delegates to participate based upon their leadership, scholarship, citizenship, high moral character, achievements and awards, and extracurricular activities.

“Delegates selected for these programs have the opportunity to participate in mock government activities where they can run for city, county and state office, work with officials from each area of government and gain first-hand knowledge of the political process, assume leadership roles and interact with their peers in a positive learning environment,” Gagliardi said.

The students are housed in dorms left empty over the summer. Each hall becomes a city and a township, the floor becomes the county, and the building becomes the state. Students then run for elected positions by campaigning. Others are appointed to positions so everyone has a position and a role in the mock government.

When the students return home, they not only have a terrific experience to add to their life’s journey, but also have an expanded list of friends from all over the state. They are also obligated to let the local Legion Post know about their experience.

“The ‘report back reception’ was June 19 at the Canfield Public Library,” Gagliardi said.

She said each delegate got a chance to discuss their experience. This year’s Buckeye Girls State delegates included Emelina Pappalardo, Lauren Smallwood, Fallon Amedia, Mackenzie Sambroak and Addison Allen. Post 177 had only one Buckeye Boys State delegate in Amir Ali.

* Mackenzie Sambroak, 17, daughter of Meghan and Stephen Sambroak, will be a senior at Ursuline High School. At BGS, she was appointed to serve as the attorney general’s chief of consumer protections.

“I learned the importance of putting yourself out there and making your voice heard, as well as how to be resilient in the face of challenges,” Sambroak said.

She said the event was an amazing opportunity and she was able to get to know a diverse group of brilliant women while making new friends.

“I made friends with so many amazing girls and have already remained in touch with several of them, and I hope to continue to do so,” she said.

As of now, Sambroak is undecided on a college, but did say she plans on going after a double major in political science and environmental studies with a possible major in theater. She would like to pursue a path as an environmental lawyer.

* Addison Allen, 17, daughter of Kim Hamilton and Richard Allen, will be a senior at Canfield High School. At BGS, she was elected auditor for Hayes City (her section of the hall).

“I wanted to attend BGS because of the opportunities to learn about government, and because upperclassmen I admired did the program as well,” Allen said.

She said she came away with a lot of public speaking and socializing skills. She also has “a ton” of new friends that she talks with daily.

For the future, Allen has not selected a college yet, but did say she is looking at political science.

* Fallon Amedia, 17, daughter of Christie Amedia and Adrian Amedia, will be a senior at Canfield High School. At BGS, Amedia was elected as county sheriff.

“I had heard it was a very positive experience from others, and I wanted to learn more about the government and to meet others that care about the government,” Amedia said. “I learned more about how the election process runs from BGS.”

Amdeia said she is looking at becoming a lawyer but has no definite plans after graduation. She made many new friends and plans to keep in touch.

“We are still talking every day,” she said, “and all of them are invited to my graduation.”

* Lauren Smallwood, 17, daughter of Jennifer and Bob Smallwood, will be a senior at Canfield High School. She had several different jobs at BGS.

“I got the lucky opportunity of having three different jobs at BGS,” Smallwood said. “In the beginning of the week, I was elected as my city’s central committeeman, then got the opportunity to be my city’s planning commissioner, but was finally appointed to the governor’s cabinet as the director of the department of taxation.”

She said she wanted to attend BGS because both of her brothers attended BBS and she had a cousin attend BGS.

“They all had such an amazing time that I couldn’t wait to go and learn more about our government.” she said. “Not only did I gain a better understanding of how our state government works and functions, but I also gained an understanding of how each different level of government and different jobs work together to make our government function smoothly.”

Smallwood is looking at attending either John Carroll University or Ohio University to study accounting. She plans on graduating and seeing where her life will take her.

She made several new friends at BGS and said she keeps in touch and has made plans to hang out with them at the Canfield Fair.

* Emelina Pappalardo, 17, daughter of Evelyn Rubidia Banos and Daniel Pappalardo, will be a senior at Canfield High School. She was fortunate to be elected governor.

“I wanted to attend Buckeye Girls State because I’ve always had a passion for learning and this was a super amazing opportunity for me to learn more about my government,” Pappalardo said. “I also value meeting and learning from a diverse group of intelligent people and I knew BGS would offer that.”

Pappalardo plans to further her studies in political science and hopes to make a difference in the world someday. She said BGS enabled her to gain a deeper understanding of state government while building a lot of new “lifelong” friendships.

“I made so many new friends, and we actually created a group chat that will have all 480+-plus of us so we can have reunions in the future,” she said.

* Amir Ali, 17, son of Hanade Suleiman and Eyad Ali, also will be a senior at Canfield High School. At BBS, Ali filled the role of message clerk for the House of Representatives and the Senate, a position based on an interview process run by the counselors.

“The reason I wanted to attend BBS was simply because I heard how much of a positive impact it has on everyone who attends the program,” Ali said. “The biggest thing I learned from attending Buckeye Boy State was to always put 100 percent into whatever you are doing. Because I had this mindset, I truly believe I got the most out of my experience there. Moreover, when I got elected to be the message clerk I wasn’t super thrilled, but I put that aside and made sure I was doing the best I possibly could at the job I was given. Since the counselors noticed this effort, they presented me with the Outstanding Citizen Award.”

For the future, Ali hasn’t yet selected a college but does plan to study biomedical engineering to help his dream of becoming an eye doctor, while continuing his track and field career on the collegiate level.

“Buckeye Boys State has been the best week of my life so far,” Ali said. “I made so many memories and friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Even though the program is finished, there hasn’t been one day since then where I haven’t kept in touch with my friends.”

At the report back reception, each delegate shared some of their experiences implementing the democratic process and lessons learned along the way.

“Special recognition was given to Emelina Pappalardo for her having achieved the highest honor of being elected governor of Buckeye Girls State,” Gagliardi said.

She said Post 177 and the Auxiliary feel blessed to be able to send the delegates to BBS and BGS for free. She said this year was because of support from The Centofanti Foundation, The Youngstown and Mahoning County Professional Business Women’s Association, The Canfield Lions Club, The IOOF of Canfield and the Tirak Family.

Ali finished his presentation by saying, “To any rising junior, I promise you won’t regret applying to this amazing program.”

Have an interesting story? Contact J.T. Whitehouse by email at jtwhitehouse@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

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