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Newsletters > Youth programs take center stage
Youth programs take center stage

Jul 17, 2015

American Legion programs help young people grow into leaders. But they need your assistance to succeed.

The American Legion
Dear Legion Family Members and Friends,

Quite often the first connection people make with The American Legion relates to our strong collection of youth programs.

During the summer, American Legion Baseball teams participate in our nation's pastime on ballfields from coast to coast. The next generation of America's leaders learn about government, leadership and teamwork at Boys State and Boys Nation. And elite youth marksmen show off their skills during the annual Junior Shooting Sports championship in Colorado Springs, Colo.

For these young people, summer does not mean goofing off with friends, hanging around at the mall or vacationing at the beach.

Through all of these popular American Legion activities, the youths learn the skills necessary to excel as adults. Boys Nation, for example, counts former President Bill Clinton and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker among its alumni.

Scott Scarborough, president of the University of Akron, attended Boys State in his home state of Texas in 1980 before serving as a delegate at Boys Nation. Scarborough credits Boys Nation with helping him develop leadership abilities, public-speaking skills and confidence.

"I hadn't thought about (Boys Nation experiences) in years," he said recently. "I think the one thing that I would like to do is to speak directly to The American Legion and say thank you for this program because this program made a big difference in my life and I appreciate what they've done."

Just as Boys Nation has developed leaders in government, education and business, American Legion Baseball has groomed participants into major-league stars.

Alex Gordon, the 2015 American Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year, played four years of Legion Baseball with J.C. Brager Post 3 in Nebraska. Gordon has been on quite a roll lately. Last fall, his Kansas City Royals played in the World Series. And next week, he will be a starting outfielder in the MLB All-Star Game.

"Getting to play with the older guys, you get to develop some of the characteristics of some of the leaders," Gordon says of his time as a Legion Baseball player. "As a young kid, you may not know how to do everything right and they show you the way. And later when you're the older guy, you try to pass those along to the younger players that come along. There's give and take. It was a great experience overall."

Jamie (Beyerle) Corkish, the 2002 American Legion Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Champion, won Olympic gold in 2012. Corkish encourages young people in her sport and others to follow their passions

"One thing I always tell young people when they are involved in the shooting sports, and any sport in that matter, is to enjoy what they are doing," she says. "Remember that one reason you are participating in this sport is because you enjoy the sport and have a passion for it. It is very difficult to be great at something that you do not enjoy doing."

These talented and passionate young people can only go so far. They require mentors, coaches and others to help groom them into the leaders of tomorrow.

If you already participate in the Legion's programs that benefit America's youths, thank you for what you do. If you don't already, please consider volunteering. We've all benefitted from mentors who had a tremendous impact on our lives. Now is an excellent time to pay it forward to youths who need our help.

For God and Country,
Mike Helm
National Commander
The American Legion
American Legion Charities

The American Legion