ROCHELLE — Calling himself “a man of the skies,” Rochelle Township High School junior Justin Julian has been chosen to attend the American Legion Boys State Conference for a week this July at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
He will represent American Legion Post 402 in Rochelle, which has not sent a representative in many years.
“There is a long history of military service in our family, plus I think I might pursue a career in either the FBI or the CIA,” said Julian, who transferred to RTHS last October from Chicago Amundsen High School.
Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state government, Boys State was founded in 1935 to counter the socialism inspired Young Pioneer Camps.
At Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The objective training centers on the structure of city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court procedures, law-enforcement presentations, assembles, bands, choruses and recreational programs.
Local legion posts select high school juniors to attend.
Among Julian’s interests is a passion for astronomy. At Amundsen, he and other astronomy club members were known for the wildly popular star parties they threw to teach other students about the solar system and light pollution. Together, they worked to find a solution to light pollution in Chicago.
“Last year I was part of the Aspen Challenge Team,” he said. “Our team won the event with a program about light pollution and how to solve it. It was truly an event that will stay with me forever.”
His team won the right to travel to the Aspen Institute in Colorado where they presented their solution.
Julian’s team also had a brief meeting with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We went to talk light in the city of Chicago and how we, as a community, can change life in the city forever. It wasn’t as fruitful as I hoped, but it gave me insight into how to turn an idea into law.”
Julian added that experience is why he is so excited about “the opportunity to learn the legislative process at all levels. We’ll learn how to identify a problem, create legislation and lobby to insure its passage.”
“I want to acknowledge my very loving and supportive mother, Marlene, who pushed me to pursue this and, thanks to her, I am here,” Julian said. “It’s thanks to her, I keep going further in life.”
He added that he also wanted to acknowledge his brothers Max and Nathan, his friends, his mother’s friend Phillip – who has helped him when he needed it – as well as his sponsor, John Schnizer, Legion Commander Steve Korth and the local Legion for making this trip possible.
Once he returns, Julian will give a report on what he has learned.