FARMINGTON – Roderick-Crosby American Legion Post 28 is hosting a barbeque chicken fundraiser on Saturday, May 20 to help send a Mt Blue High School junior to The American Legion Department of Maine DIRIGO State program at Colby College in mid-June. The fundraiser will be held at the Wiles Monument Garage on 140 Farmington Falls Road beginning at 11:30 until sold out. The cost is $12.00 for a barbequed half chicken, cornbread, chips, brownie, and bottled water.
DIRIGO State, a first of its kind, is a comprehensive, experiential learning, youth leadership program. A blending of Boys and Girls State programs, the curriculum is designed after the Maine State government, where all students come together to create their own town, county, and state governing bodies.
Boys State was first formed and held in Springfield, Illinois in 1935. The program quickly expanded nationwide to teach youth of their citizen rights and responsibilities. Boys State is open to male high school students who completed their junior year with several notable personalities such as former President Bill Clinton, movie critic Roger Ebert and Lou Dobbs, CNN co-founder, graduating from the program. Girls State is a nationwide program organized by the American Legion Auxiliary offered to female high school students who completed their junior year an opportunity to comprehensively learn about the American governmental process.
According to Jason Hall, Department of Maine Judge Advocate and chairperson of the DIRIGO State committee, Boys and Girls State were amazing programs but offered different lesson plans.
Hall iterated, “In an effort to offer the same curriculum, real world experience where you have to work with a diverse group of both males and females, the programs were combined [in the State of Maine].”
The Maine American Legion was the first in the nation to offer a blended Boys and Girls State program. The intent was to unveil the merged program in 2021 but the Covid-19 pandemic forced a delay of the historical merger. Last year was the official first year of DIRIGO State with 150 high school juniors across Maine participating.
The DIRIGO State concept drew interest from The American Legion at the National and State levels. Several states contacted the Maine American Legion to learn more about the blended program.
Hall stated, “We had many inquiries and visits from other American Legion Departments to learn how they too can merge their programs.”
To attract students to the program, the Maine American Legion headquarters mails application packets to every high school, home school association, and American Legion Post in Maine. Social media is utilized to further reach students and parents. DIRIGO State, as a program, is highlighted at every Department of Maine conference, annual convention, and various District meetings.
Hall expressed, “the best advertisement is the graduates of the program when they return to high school as seniors and tell their younger classmates about the incredible opportunities and the lifelong friendships they developed during the weeklong program.”
When applications are received at American Legion Posts, the members review and decide how many students they can financially support. Posts directly sponsor students, hold fundraisers within their communities, or solicit businesses and individuals for financial contributions to cover the program cost for each student.
Hall recounted a challenge, “We had twin sisters both interested and eager in attending, but the local Post could only fund one student. The neighboring town had a Post, but no candidate applied from their school. The two Posts worked hand in hand to ensure both sisters had an opportunity to attend DIRIGO State.”
Roderick-Crosby Post 28 collaborating with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 have continually sponsored students to attend the former Boys and Girls State annual programs and DIRIGO State attendance is no exception this year. Proceeds from the barbeque chicken fundraiser ensure students can attend.
Jennifer Bowser-Kimble, Post 28 Finance Officer, says DIRIGO State, “teaches students to work as a team, advocate for themselves, helping them gain confidence while making friends from all over the state.”
Students attending DIRIGO State experience many facets of politics from campaigning in mock elections, learning and effecting mock legislative processes, visits by local Maine politicians and guest speakers in addition to other activities to round out their week. A formal graduation concludes the program. The DIRIGO State program week is largely staffed by volunteers from local American Legion Posts and Auxiliary Units.
For more information about DIRIGO State and the Post 28 chicken barbeque fundraiser contact Post 28 Adjutant Drew Goodridge at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-200-8756.