Bob and Barbara Rhinehart of Pine Bluff believe those who have benefited from liberty have a responsibility to help young people learn the importance of understanding and participating in democracy.
That’s a key reason that the husband-and-wife community leaders and retired educators have for the past decade been working with a pair of recognized programs in civic education for high school juniors.
Barbara Rhinehart is a volunteer for the American Legion Auxiliary’s Arkansas Girls State. Her husband donates his services to the American Legion’s Arkansas Boys State. They’ve been involved with the efforts — which culminate with week-long, statewide meets that focus on government — since 2004.
The programs date back more than seven decades and have produced a number of well-known leaders. Among the Arkansas Boys State alumni are former President Bill Clinton, past Gov. Mike Huckabee and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark. Among those who took part in past Girl States is state Rep. Toni Bradford.
During Barbara Rhinehart’s time with Girls State, three Pine Bluff High School students have been elected to posts at their camps — LaRhonda Washington and Chaloea Williams have served as governors and Camille Goldmon was a land commissioner.
Each year, Barbara Rhinehart — now 84 — relates to incoming Girls Staters her experiences as a 17-year-old participant in the 1946 Illinois Girls State.
“In a nutshell, Girls State is the opportunity to learn the practical process of good citizenship in a democratic society,” she said, stressing the importance of voting.
Bob Rhinehart, 85, is a World War II-era Army veteran who said he works with Boys State “because I just can’t say,’No,’ and I can’t get away from working with kids.” He and his wife are active with a number of organizations and efforts supporting youth.
“In everything we do in helping youth, I feel we’re giving the younger generation the tools they need to survive in today’s world,” Barbara Rhinehart said of their endeavors.
“I tell the boys (in Boys State) that this is a program for people identified as being able to profit from this experience,” Bob Rhinehart said. “It’s an exercise in politics, but more so in democracy. I tell the boys that 30 or 40 years from now, they’ll see many of the young men at Boys State in leadership roles within society.”
Boys State and Girls State will be held May 26-31 at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and Harding University in Searcy, respectively.
Local Girls State delegates and their sponsors are:
• DOLLARWAY HIGH SCHOOL — Amanda Bailey (Bethany Chapel Church), Ja’toria Burton (Emma Luckett), Kenya Johnson and Ellatrice Whitmore (DHS) and Christina Mack (Stacy Luckett).
• PINE BLUFF HIGH SCHOOL — Angelica Betts (Optimist Club of Pine Bluff), Ashley Gragg (American Legion Auxiliary Hearin-Connolly Unit No. 32), Simone Grice (Jefferson County Civitan Club), Kalycya Hawkins (Pine Bluff National Bank), Faranique Holman (The Link’s International), Charion Linwood (Kiwanis Club of Pine Bluff), Richaundra Randle (Downtown Lions Club), YanQiu Sun (United Commercial Travelers), Desta Wiley (Rotary Club of Pine Bluff) and Andrea Williams (Rotary Club of West Pine Bluff).
• RIDGWAY CHRISTIAN SCHOOL — Brandi Battles (RCS RPAT).
• WATSON CHAPEL HIGH SCHOOL — Amber Adkins (Simmons First National Bank), Rebekka Coody (Catholic Daughters of America), Daphne Dunn (Watson Chapel Lions Club) and Sydney Dobis, Tanilah Jones and Aliyah Smith (WCHS).
Local Boys State delegates and their sponsors are:
• DHS – Joshua Liddell (PBNB) and Frederick Wade (SFNB).
• PBHS — Desmond Browder (RCPB), Christian Chatman (Don Harris State Farm Insurance), Zachery Fluker (DLC), Colby Hamilton (OCPB) and Adam Graham (Ralph Robinson and Son).
• RCS — Cody Cheatwood and Randall Harris (First Assembly of God).
• WCHS — Giovanni Arreola (WCLC), Jalen Maulden (OCPB), Kristopher McCullough (DLC), Dominique Sanders (Link’s) and Robert Atkins, Joshua Harris, Hunter Lunsford and Benjamin Marcus (WCHS).