Kiernan Beresford, a Norman North junior headed to Boys Nation in Washington, D.C., next month -- the first high schooler from Norman to do so -- almost missed his chance at earning the honor.

Standing in front of a packed house at American Legion Post 88, 710 E. Main St., the young man recounted Thursday evening the phone call that secured his "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"My mom called me on the last day to sign up and said: 'You're going,'" Beresford said.

Beresford was going to Boys State on the campus of Northeastern Oklahoma A--M in Miami, home to the civic engagement camp designed to give young adults a crash course on government -- at all levels.

The 17-year-old must have made an impression at Boys State last month. Out of more than 550 aspiring politicians, speech writers and all-around go-getters, only Beresford and one other young man will go to the nation's capital to spend time with Congress and continue the lessons started at Boys State.

"I felt I worked hard at Boys State," Beresford said. "I was on city council in my city. I ran for lieutenant governor. I really tried to promote myself when I was there."

Beresford said he was "shocked" on the last day of Boys State when his senior counselor told him he'd been selected for Boys Nation, but added he plans to use the experience beyond high school and college.

"It's a great opportunity to see how our country works," he said. "I'd like to go into politics eventually. It's never a set thing, but it's something I'm interested in, definitely."

Beresford said programs like Boys State and Boys Nation are important leadership programs, the kind Naval Academy admission officials look for when selecting future officers.

"I plan on attending the Naval Academy. I hope this helps prepare me for that," he said. "There's so many things you can learn from Boys Nation."

While attending Boys Nation July 18-26, Beresford will be housed at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. -- more than 1,300 miles from his house.

"I'm not so much intimidated as I am excited," he said. "It's a huge honor to get to go to Boys Nation and I'm looking forward to it."

As to be expected, Beresford's parents were happy with their son.

"I'm just proud of the goals he set and how hard he worked to realize those goals," Beresford's father Kerry said.

"Every parent has a great sense of pride when they see their children standing on their own two feet."

Boys State and Boys Nation are programs of the American Legion. Thursday evening, more than a dozen local young men and women also were honored by Norman's American Legion Post 88 for their participation in both Boys State and Girls State.

Boys State was created by teachers Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card in 1935 to counter the Young Pioneer Camps in socialist Russia, which had been formed a decade earlier. Boys Nation was created in 1946.

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