Pike County American Legion Post 197 recently sponsored two young men to attend Georgia Boys State which is a comprehensive one-week course in state and local government and is a program of the American Legion Department of Georgia. Boys State was held at Gordon State College in Barnesville with locals Luke Pullin and Isaac Walraven staying in the dorms with nearly 400 other young men from across the state.
“I know that both of these young men put a lot of effort into their roles at Boys State and that’s fantastic. I’m proud of you both for working hard,” said Post 197 commander Paul Chatterton.
Luke Pullin was selected to attend Boys Nation and only two students from each of the 49 Boys State sessions will represent their state at Boys Nation in Washington, where the young leaders receive an education on the structure and function of federal government. The first Boys Nation convened at American University in Washington in August 1946. The week of government training will also include lectures, forums and visits to federal agencies, national shrines, institutions, memorials and historical sites. On Capitol Hill, Boys Nation senators meet with elected officials from their home states.
Luke Pullin is a rising senior at Pike County High School who learned a lot about government first hand when his dad Ken Pullin was elected as a state representative in 2018. The organizers of Boys State at Gordon State College were unaware of that relationship and he was selected as one of two students to take part in Boys Nation in Washington D.C.
“Washington D.C is one of my favorite cities and I went in to Boys State with my mind set on getting elected for Boys Nation. I thought the session would elect two candidates to go to Boys Nation but I found out that students have to get nominated by staff and they are watched from the minute they arrive and they look for someone who has a passion for government. I did a lot of public speaking so I think that helped me a lot. It was fantastic. There were seven people interviewed for Boys Nation,” said Luke. “Seeing my dad step up into the political realm was huge. I was super proud of him. Watching him instilled in me the character to do certain things even though they aren’t popular and I tried to do that at Boys State and I had to stand up against certain issues that made me not as popular. It was just the Boys State platform but to me it meant a lot and the things I took a stand against actually ended up getting removed from legislation.”
Luke said he initially planned to run for governor but quickly realized he should probably run for state representative.
“I chose a position to run for that I knew I could win and I was also the county party chairman and a county councilman. I had a lot of support from my city and I figured out that that’s where you have to rally your support from – your local area. Boys State really helped me with my public speaking and I was in the top 4 for the Oratorical Contest. I was also able to public speak at every meeting. Public speaking is an invaluable skill that a lot of people don’t possess. It also taught me the power of networking and communication and how to build support from the bottom up,” he said.
After election as state representative, Luke wrote a bill to reduce the ability of cities and counties to charge unfair fines.
“Fines only hurt poor people really, so I wrote a bill to create an investigative agency to solve ticket overpricing issues. Sometimes counties will increase fees just to bring in more revenue. We looked at the revenue from counties, looked at complaints from citizens and evaluated those into ticket overpricing or possible evidence of ticket quotas being used. If the increase in revenue wasn’t from an increase in population or development, then the county was making more money from ticket revenue. I wrote a bill that was about three pages and it passed the Senate and had the governor’s support but the House didn’t want to take the time to read and consider it.”
Luke said he most enjoyed learning about the judicial system. He said he took a class which created a superior court system with elected sheriffs and police chiefs and even an appeals court system and students were allowed to try mock cases.
“The state has unlimited power to prosecute because of their massive funding to protect themselves,” he said. “I’d like to go into law and criminal defense because I believe government can be dangerous and someone should be there to protect others.”
Luke had to submit a bill to Boys Nation and his bill would cap the amount that public college can raise their admission to the country’s inflation rate.
“In the past 20 years, college prices have risen 176% which prices an education out for many students,” he said.
Luke plans to attend the University of North George or Georgia College.
“Whatever you put into it, that’s what you’re going to get out of it. I think that’s the most important thing I learned,” he said. “I put a lot into it and I’m going to D.C. It was an amazing experience and I met a lot of great friends. I’m really looking forward to what I get to experience at Boys Nation.”
Isaac Walraven is a rising senior at CrossPointe Christian Academy in Hollonville and he hopes to pursue a career as a surgeon or engineer.
“I either want to be a surgeon or an engineer and what will decide is where I’m accepted to college,” he said. “I’ve already visited Duke and Vanderbilt and will be touring Georgia Tech soon. When you get an engineering degree, you learn how to problem solve and that’s something you can use in any aspect of life.”
He was one of two students who earned a Post 197 scholarship to the week-long Boys State session and there he was elected as a state senator and also served as the fictional Nationalist Party chairman and a county commissioner. The boys were organized into four cities and counties based on where they were housed in dorms at Gordon with a total of nearly 400 students.
“I ran for state senator and I got elected and I really enjoyed that. I also enjoyed being in a room with all these other guys and being able to work with them and also getting to pass legislation back and forth and work with legislators who lived down the hall, that was really neat. It was cool to see how the process works and how everyone has to work together to get legislation passed.”
Isaac said he campaigned the most at his county’s convention and that being a people person helped him connect with others at Boys State. After election, he spent most of his time working on a bill to benefit veterans.
“I spent two days writing one bill that focused on disability for veterans. It basically said that any veteran who had a job prior to their time of service would be paid at least 80 percent of their previous salary if they were injured or disabled and were unable to perform the job they had before they enlisted,” he said.
“It was a great experience and I think if government is something you’re interested in, then Boys State is really a great place to see government actually in action. The best part was getting to experience how it works instead of just learning about it. A lot of times people focus on the big guys in Washington and their policies but I learned that any level of government from city to federal are just as important as each other and they all have to be functional for this country to work.”
Isaac and Luke found out at Boys State that they shared a lot of beliefs and ideals like others from smaller areas and they worked together to stop bills from passing that would have allowed school resource officers to arrest small children.
Isaac also applied for the Samsung American Legion Scholarship which is open to descendants of veterans who served during war time. He wrote two essays to be considered for the scholarship.