Eighteen of our current representatives had their first taste of public service before they ever graduated high school. They were all part of the Boys State and Girls State program.

In fact, one of our members, Rep. Sabin, went on to Boys Nation and met President Clinton in the White House Rose Garden thirty years to the day that Clinton met President John F. Kennedy as a Boys Nation representative from Arkansas.

This week, we welcomed delegates from the 2013 Boys State and Girls State program to the House Chamber.

The National American Legion established the Boys State program in 1935. The American Legion Auxiliary established Girls State in 1937. Since that time, some of the nation’s brightest high school juniors have come together where an invented "state" is established.

The purpose is to educate the students in the duties, privileges, and responsibilities of American citizenship.

In Arkansas, Boys State is held every summer at the UCA campus in Conway. Girls State is held at Harding University in Searcy.

The delegates hold elections for nearly every state office. Near the end of the program, those young men and women who have been elected as state representatives come to the House Chamber to vote on the mock bills they drafted previously during the week.

This year, Arkansas Girls State Representatives drafted and voted on bills concerning eligibility requirements for a hunting license, increasing public transportation, and increasing the fines for texting and driving.

Representatives of Boys State drafted and voted on bills regarding drug testing for unemployment benefits, repealing the state’s graduated driver’s license requirements, and providing incentives for the use of compressed natural gas in vehicles.

The future of our state and nation depends on the development of capable leadership in education, in business and in government.

Boys State and Girls State provides our students with an opportunity to learn how our government operates without using a text book. It teaches them through a real-life experience they will never forget.

Students who have completed their junior year of high school with outstanding leadership and character are eligible. If you know a young man or woman interested in serving encourage them to visit with their high school guidance counselor.