Representing Putnam County

Q.I. Roberts' Owen Meeks to serve in American Legion's Boys State
“During the interviews, we were just taken back by the quality of students we have. These are really great young men.” -- Stan Owens 

Putnam County will be represented in Tallahassee this summer, when a local high school student will participate in the American Legion’s 73rd session of Boys State. 

Boys State began in Illinois in 1935 as a program for students to become part of local, county and state government. The annual event has taken place in every state for 73 years, American Legion representatives said. 

Boys State delegates from Florida spend a week in Tallahassee, shadowing state representatives in the lawmaking process. 

Stan Owens, vice commander at Palatka’s American Legion Post 45, said the delegates finish up the week creating a legislative bill of their own. 

“Over the years, some of the bills that they’ve put together have actually gone into law,” said Owens, who referenced a recent a law that added blue reflectors on the road to indicate fire hydrants on the side of the road. 

Owens said two delegates from Boys State are also selected to represent Florida at Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.

This year, Post 45 officials sought the help of Superintendent Phyllis Criswell in selecting potential Boys State delegates from Putnam County. 

Criswell said she worked with Putnam County School District principals in selecting Oscar Martinez, Jeremiah Gilyard, Nathaniel Miller and Owen Meeks as potential Boys State delegates. 

“During the interviews, we were just taken back by the quality of students we have,” Owens said. “These are really great young men.” 

Post 45 officials created a board to interview the four candidates, who met Boys State qualifications. A candidate must have successfully completed his junior year of high school, have at least one semester of high school remaining, have not previously attended Boys State and be certified by the sponsoring American Legion post. 

“This was very difficult. We all know how difficult it was to pick one of these fine young gentlemen,” Owens said. 

“We have amazing students in Putnam County’s schools system,” Criswell said. “These young men are fine representatives.”

Ultimately, the board selected Meeks to represent the county this summer. 

Meeks, 17, is a member of Putnam’s Cambridge International program’s inaugural class at Q.I. Roberts Junior-Senior High School. 

He serves as the president of the 11th grade class and National Honor Society. 

“I expect to learn more about politics (during Boys State) and more about being a leader in the community,” Meeks said. 

Meeks echoed the statements from Criswell and Owens about the quality of the class of interviewees. 

“It shows the county has a lot of capable young men,” he said. 

Martinez, Gilyard or Miller can serve in Meeks’ place if he’s not able to attend Boys State, or in the place of another post’s delegate. 

Boys State will take place June 19-25 at Florida State University.