From left, Eric Eternod, Blake Heyer, Christopher Gouin, Porter Enloe, Griffen Hedrick, Neil Pauquette, Russell Smith, Graham Smith and James Shaw, not pictured, participated in the Department of Georgia’s American Legion Boys State Program.
Special to the Tribune
Woodstock-area teen Christopher Gouin is heading to The American Legion Boys Nation program in Washington D.C. after being selected as a Boys Nation senator.
Russell Smith of Canton was selected as a Boys Nation senator alternate.
Gouin, Smith and seven other local teens participated in the weeklong Department of Georgia’s American Legion Boys State program at the Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville from June 14 to 20.
American Legion Post 316 in Woodstock sponsored the group.
“The Boys State program is a comprehensive, weeklong program in how state and local governments function,” said American Legion Post 316 Commander Irma Martin. “It is a program where the attendees take part in forming a mythical 51st state. During the week, they get the opportunity to learn the political process and build their state from the city, county and state levels.”
To form a 51st state, Gouin said some 400 Boys State attendees had to start from the ground up, first creating a city government.
“Upon arriving, you are split up into 16 different cities, four counties and two parties,” Gouin said. “Eventually, you get to the state level. Basically, if Georgia’s government didn’t exist, this is how we would set it up.”
During the first day of the program, Gouin said mayors, council members and the clerks were elected.
“From there, we moved up to the county level and elected state representatives and court judges,” he said. “From there, we moved to the state level. That’s where the lieutenant governor office and state senator offices were elected.”
Gouin was named lieutenant governor and Boys Nation senator for the state, Georgia Boys State.
Six other Woodstock-area teens also were elected to positions.
Smith, of River Ridge High School, was named a county sheriff; Blake Heyer, of Woodstock High School, served on a City Council and served as a state senator; Porter Enloe, of The King’s Academy, was named the state commissioner of insurance; Griffen Hedrick, of River Ridge High School, was a state senator; Neil Pauquette, of River Ridge High School, was a county Superior Court clerk; and Graham Smith, of River Ridge High School, served on a City Council.
James Shaw, of Etowah High School, and Eric Eternod, of Woodstock High School, also participated in the weeklong program.
“Boys State is not well known, but it is a really good opportunity to experience government and what our citizenship entails,” Gouin said. “We got to experience different levels of government; we got to rally the cities and counties behind the candidates.”
Gouin will now move on to The American Legion Boys Nation program, where he and 97 other teens will experience government on the federal level. The program runs from July 17 to 24.
“I haven’t experienced it yet, but I am really looking forward it,” he said. “We all go as senators, and we basically simulate the senate of the United States of America. The only thing that is unrealistic is that we elect the president. We pass bills, form committees and are briefed on national security.”
Gouin attends the Johnson Ferry Christian Academy, where he is enrolled in the college preparatory program and has been a National Honor Society member since 2013. He is dual enrolled at Truett-McConnell College, where he is on the president’s list and is also dual enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College or (Georgia Tech).
Gouin has been involved in The Kings’ Academy Army Junior ROTC program in Woodstock since 2012 and is expected to be a company co-battalion commander and co-executive officer during the 2015-16 school year.
He said he would like to attend West Point upon graduating and pursue a career in the military.
“As of right now, politics is not on my radar, but God takes me where he wants me to go,” Gouin said.