Eight top Harker Heights High School juniors and those who raised funds for them to go to Boys State and Girls State were honored at a luncheon Saturday at the American Legion Jack D. Levy Post 573 in Harker Heights.

The American Legion sponsors Boys State and Girls State, summer programs that educate high school juniors about legislative government through hands-on participation.

“I think it’s important because our students need to understand politics at that level of government,” said Post Commander Roger Crager.

Chase Lalouette attended Girls State with Jessica Babb. Lalouette was elected “outstanding citizen” by her peers, which allows her to attend Girls Nation, said Helen Nelson, Girls State chairman.

“She will be attending that event in Washington, D.C., in July,” Nelson said.

Going to Girls State was not about being elected but making a difference through perseverance, attitude, citizenship and friendship, Babb said.

“After graduating, I plan to attend Baylor, then UT Law School. Maybe you will see me as a Texas senator.”

The luncheon recognized students who experienced the Texas political process — Naomi Zenhye, Kelly Sublett, Hunter Hill and the students who attended Boys State — Jeremy Candelas, Logan Melvin, Michael Swader, William Duval and Brad Sauer. The students sang a rendition of the Boys State song before sharing their experiences.

“Attending Boys State taught me that competency can make or break anyone,” Duval said. “You can have the best speech but without confidence you won’t win an election.”

“I’m in the ROTC and train in color guard every day,” Candelas said. “I lost when I ran for color guard at Boys State. I ran for mayor and lost, then ran for associate justice of the Supreme Court, where I won the party nomination but lost the election. It was a humbling experience for me.”

“I liked that we came from all parts of Texas to share in the same experience,” Swader said.

Hill didn’t plan to get involved when he first arrived at Boys State.

“Once I gained 11 votes from my peers and won in an election and was put on the abortion committee, which was a very controversial bill, I wrote a majority of it which was later given to Governor Rick Perry.” Hill said.

Sauer and Melvin plan to attend one of the military academies or enroll in a college ROTC program after graduating from high school.

Chef Kristina Hartbarger catered the event, whose items were provided by the post.

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