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In one’s lifetime, it is quite hard to meet a lasting friendship. Being a witness I beg to differ from those who believe that in a week your life can be positively impacted. I went into this situation very skeptical but willing to explore something new. It was on Sunday on 14th July 2015 over five hundred high school seniors and I made the journey to the University of South Carolina. We arrived at the hostel with a massive amount of luggage. I come to learn that my roommate was not from my school. His name was Allan, one would probably say we are the best of friends since we were talking, laughing questioning about our lives back at home.
The afternoon came rather briskly, and it was time for the evening’s festivities. Allan and I were instructed by our junior counselor, Hunter, to meet in the lobby conference room for our city meeting. We were shocked to see fifty other young men piled into the petite room, who were just as dumbfounded as we were. There we met our senior counselor MaCnail, who was a native of Orangeburg and our other junior counselor Zane. We instantly learned that Boys State was divided into nineteen different cities and within those cities, you would live and fellowship with those guys for the entire week. The cities names were rather unusual and hard to pronounce but were actual places or sites across the state of South Carolina. Some of these included Enoree, Saluda, Ashley, Waccamaw, Keowee, and my city Tugaloo. We greeted each other and fellowshipped while eating pizza, but still, that barrier of comfort had not yet been broken.
After our meeting, it was time for our opening assembly, which would be held daily at the old Carolina Coliseum. We walked everywhere with our cities in two separate lines, which showed the difference between the Nationalists and Federalists parties. Every citizen, as we were referred to, was a member of either of the parties and could be recognized by either a red “Nat” or blue “Fed” name tag. From our dorms, it was about a ten-minute walk, which was very tiring being that it was triple digits the entire week. Sweat poured from each and every place it possibly could on our bodies, but through it all, we made it, luckily without anyone passing out.
It seemed as we walked into a technology wonderland, with huge projector screens everywhere, an array of neon lights, flat-screen televisions, and the best audio system money could buy. We all were excited to finally meet the rest of Boys State, and the energy that filled the Coliseum reached an all-time high. For hours we remained in there, most of us falling asleep from the boring yet comical lectures by the executive board. They exclaimed that the experience over the next five days would be forever embedded in our minds. For many including myself thought it was all a lie, but as the days drew closer for us to leave, we wished it would occur all over again.
As a group effort, each city competed for awards, including most spirit, best lines and neatness, cleanliness of the dorms, and athletic competitions. Every day we met on a huge open field for what we call calisthenics. There we competed in the day’s sports activities as a city. Teamwork played a huge factor in this, and although the sun showed no mercy, we worked together as if we were brothers. Animosity between the nineteen cities sprouted when it came to chanting. Every city made up hilarious chants or songs to try and outshine the other. We jumped, danced, pushed, and even shoved, but we knew deep inside that it was just all fun and games. I recall that by day two, almost the entire Boys State was hoarse from all of the yellings, but it didn’t matter for we would continue to chant. All of these activities were designed to make us grow closer together, learn how to work as a team, make us step outside of our comfort zone, and teach us the true meaning of brotherhood.
During the next four days, we participated and ran for different offices to gain insight and build a mock government, in the city, county, and state levels. This would consist of endless delivering of speeches and campaigning, in order to prove who the best candidates for the positions were. Doing these tasks greatly enhanced our public speaking skills, and encouraged us to take part in building our Boys State government. The highest possible offices to be filled were that of the governor and lieutenant governor, which were, of course, the most distinct and honorable positions. We were privileged to have several political figures as our guest speakers, including Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, and the youngest member of the House of Representatives, Bakari Sellers. Although we wanted our fellow city and county members to win their races, we were encouraged to vote a straight ticket by our party advisors.
Friday seemed as if it raced around the corner in a minute. It was considered to be a fun-filled day, being that we march with Palmetto Girls State to the state capital. I was shocked to see the entire downtown Columbia shut down so that our police-escorted motorcade of over thirty buses could drop us off at our inauguration. Inauguration day was when the winners of the offices were sworn in on the statehouse steps. It was actually a relief to finally see girls since we were surrounded by testosterone the entire week. After the swearing-in was complete, we ate lunch on the lawn with Girls State. Later that evening we had our banquet and talent show. It looked as if we were going to the Grammy Awards, with our finest suits and fancy ties. We gathered in the four corners of the coliseum’s lobby, each feasting on some very tasty food. Great talent was displayed by various citizens of Boys’ State, from singing to dancing. The most touching part of this entire experience was after all of the festivities for the day. We all changed into basketball shorts and t-shirts and gathered for our last city meeting. There we reflected on the entire week and the way we have all grown so close. We cried like little babies and wished that we could be together just a little while longer.
The experience over those six days will forever reminisce in my heart. What an enlightening experience it was? It is hard to cram everything that I took part in and witnessed over the course of my week at Boys State. All of the morals and values of teamwork, brotherhood, and leadership, will continue to be displayed throughout my life. Although my fellow city members and I have departed back to our separate lives, Facebook will forever keep us rooted. I am proud to say that I have forty white, five black, and one Chinese brother. From that early Sunday morning to that hot Saturday afternoon, my entire life was changed. My expectations were way less than what the outcome of the week would hold, and on that short drive home down the interstate, I wish that week at Palmetto Boys State would occur all over again.
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