Tigard American Legion Auxiliary celebrates students and first responders

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Boys State participant Geoffrey Johnson (right) talks about his experiences at the week-long governance program last June while the Auxiliary’s other Boys State participant, Aida Wapisz, listens. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life
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The Tigard American Legion Post 158 Auxiliary held its annual Americanism dinner Feb. 20 to honor the Police Officer of the Year and Firefighter of the Year along with two Boys State participants.

A Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crew from Station 51 on Burnham Street in Tigard could not stay for dinner but stopped by briefly for Lt. Brian Johnson to announce that Lt. Jason Morgan was the Firefighter of the Year. Morgan has been with TVF&R for 26 years and is a member of the technical rescue team out of Station 51. The Auxiliary nominated him for Oregon Firefighter of the Year, and he received that honor as well.

Interim Tigard Police Chief Jamey McDonald said the department could not choose between two officers for Officer of the Year, so they chose both. Brian Orth, who rides a bicycle as part of the downtown focus patrol, could not attend, but “he has made a huge impact in a short amount of time,” McDonald said. 

Officer Evan Fourie came to the department in 2016 as a patrol officer. “He is a canine officer, a fire arms instructor, and coaches and trains new officers,” McDonald said. 

Fourie, who works nights, said, “I am honored to be here. I sometimes park in your parking lot. If you see me, stop by and say hi.”

The Auxiliary sent two high school juniors to Boys State last June. The week-long program teaches leadership, governance and civics in a non-partisan and hands-on manner with students participating in such programs as a mock “Legislature” and “Supreme Court” at Oregon State University.

Geoffrey Johnson, who was a member of the “House of Representatives,” said, “I learned how government works and that it is important for everyone to do their jobs.”

Aida Wapisz said he took the “bar exam” on his first day and learned about writing laws. “I met a bunch of different people, and we not only learned how government works but got to live it,” he said. “Now I want to pursue law as a career.”

Girls State was not held last year.

The nationwide American Legion Baseball program started in 1926 for 13- to 19-year-olds, and more than 3,500 teams participate each year. Jeremy Shetler and Steve Knapke are two local coaches sponsored by the Tigard Legion who spoke enthusiastically about their experiences last year. “It’s more than just baseball, it’s about community,” Knapke said.

This year’s Boys and Girls State programs are open to high school juniors, including home-school students, in Tigard, Tualatin and Beaverton. The deadline to apply is May 17. For more information, call the American Legion at 503-624-2332.

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