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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Delegate becomes US citizen at BBS

The evening began with cheers of discension pouring through the crowd. As a stream of 1,300 high school aged delegates slowly poured into Anderson Arena, the cheers got more frequent and more raucous. Taking on the life of a political convention ,the crowd was deeply partisan, cheering for those they supported, trying to outdo all the other groups.

Yells for people like Bangham and Hartpence, only to be counteracted with cheers for Brady and Gardner. The 1,300 delegates of Buckeye Boys State were enjoying the chance to be playfully political and argue over candidates.

However, the night soon changed as the pockets of dissension became unified as they suppported one of their peers.

On this night, Buckeye Boys State delegate Antoine Perretta became a U.S. citizen.

He walked towards the stage with a nervous look, constantly looking down, seeming embarrassed by all the attention he was receiving from 1,300 of his peers. With his mother, Cathy, and father, Joe, on stage, and two well behaved but rambunctious young siblings, Alexander, 5, and Sophie, 3, on their laps, he took an oath to become a citizen to the country he has called home since he moved from France at 9-months-old.The process that started innocently enough, with Antoine asking if he would be able to run for a position in the Boys State program if he was not a United States citizen. Then things slowly evolved and more and more people got on board and soon a proud group of veterans in the American Legion wanted to bestow something they take enormous pride in, American citizenship, on one of their visiting delegates.

“I don’t have words to express how I was feeling,” Antoine said later. “I didn’t expect the overwhelming response from the other delegates.”

Antoine’s mother, Cathy Pohlapel, could appreciate the event more than most. She had just gone through a similar, though less glamorous process. She had spent a full year going through the process and getting through the beauracracy in order to become an American citizen herself.

“Going into the process you are not treated well,” she said. But she said she was overwhelmed by the lengths the American Legion went through to honor her son on this night. “We have a saying French saying that they put out the everyday dish into the fine China,” she said. “To see how appreciate people are makes you feel good.”

Once the oath was completed Antoine was presented with a written version of the oath he took in frame as well as an American flag that was flown over the United States capitol on May 24th at the request of Congressman Paul Gillmor (R). Gillmor is presently in the House of Representatives representing the Fifth Congressional District of Ohio, which includes Wood County, home of Bowling Green State University.

Gillmor said through a spokesman today, “United States citizenship is a privilege that carries with it many responsibilities. As a member of Buckeye Boys State, Antoine has proven to be a leader of his peers. And as a newly confirmed citizen, I look forward to Antoine continuing to be an active member of the community.”

After Judge Donald Reiger completed the ceremony for Antoine he spoke to the crowd about what it means to become a citizen of the United States. “Accept your responsibility of citizenship,” he told the crowd, “and keep this the greatest country in the world.”

It was a challenge the 1,300 delegates of Buckeye Boys State seemed all to willing to meet. It was as if seeing Antoine take the oath of American citizenship renewed their own sense of being an American. At the conclusion of Antoine’s ceremony everyone, from the band, to the delegates, to the National Commander of the American Legion stood up and cheered. The crowd errupted into a chant.

“U-S-A. U-S-A. U-S-A,” they screamed for more than 30 seconds.

The evening ended the way it began as the 1,300 delegates filed out of Anderson Arena cheering for Bangham, Brady and Gardner. One group trying to outdo the other.

However, the evening left a lasting impression with Antoine and his family. “I’ve never been so impressed and treated with more respect and quality,” Cathy said. “That is something that wil stay with me forever.”

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