South student grows interest in politics during Washington, D.C., visit

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 19, 2012

 South High School student Neal Jeup visited Washington, D.C., this summer as one of two teens from Michigan in the American Legion Boys Nation program.

South High School student Neal Jeup visited Washington, D.C., this summer as one of two teens from Michigan in the American Legion Boys Nation program.

Photo provided by Neal Jeup

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — South High School student Neal Jeup had a story to tell about what he did over summer vacation.

Jeup, of Grosse Pointe Farms, was one of two delegates from Michigan chosen to spend a week in Washington, D.C., during the summer as part of the 2012 American Legion Boys Nation Convention.

It was a learning experience that fostered a growing interest in the political arena for the teen, a senior at South this year.

“Before the Boys State/Boys Nation experience I saw myself as a lifelong businessman, but having gone through these life-changing programs, my interest in politics has increased,” Jeup said in an email. “My hope for the future is to continue past college with a successful career in business that perhaps leads to an opportunity to run for a political office.”

Dan McCrary is the scholars chairman for the Grosse Pointe American Legion Post 303. He has a lot of positive things to say about Jeup.

“We are so fortunate to have such great students, such as Neal, represent the Grosse Pointe area for the American Legion Boys State program and the state of Michigan at Boys Nation,” he said in an email. “In talking with Neal during his Boys State at Northwood (University), and after his trip to Washington, D.C., I know that this summer has really been a life-changing experience for him.”

At Boys State, the students learn about government and participate in a model government, complete with elections. Then there is the opportunity to advance to Boys Nation.

“A select committee of the educational staff and American Legion members select two candidates to attend Boys Nation based on their contributions and prior week’s performance at Boys State,” McCrary said. “Neal certainly demonstrated leadership and skills to represent the state of Michigan at Boys Nation. Neal also has great leadership qualities, as was demonstrated when he was running for the Secretary of State and developing his campaign. He developed unique slogans and gained the support of the attendees to obtain one of the highest offices. He also used his life experiences in business to promote his election.”

In the future, McCrary is encouraging Jeup to take part in more of what the American Legion has to offer.

“Neal is a great speaker and I am encouraging him to get involved in the American Legion Oratorical Contest in which a winning $14,000 scholarship is offered along with several others. I am confident that he will do a great job and it will help him learn about the Constitution. There are several other scholarships that are offered by our post and the American Legion in which I am encouraging him to participate,” he said.

Jeup learned about the program through a friend who had experience at the Boys State level.

“I learned more about the program through Vice Commander Dan McCrary, and I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for 2012,” Jeup said. “While at Boys State, I learned about Boys Nation and decided to pursue one of the two Michigan seats.”

At the state level, two representatives are chosen to head to Washington.

“The program is very competitive — over 19,000 boys are considered and 98 are selected to attend (Hawaii does not have a program),” Jeup said. “Boys Nation focuses on government at a federal level. Those who attend have the chance to run for executive positions. I ran for president pro tempore and was fortunate enough to get elected.”

The highlight of his week in the capital was a visit to the White House.

“Going in the White House was like nothing I ever imagined,” Jeup said. “I was especially blessed to be with a program like Boys Nation, because after 66 years, they have earned the trust and confidence of the president and White House staff. This allowed us to have greater freedom as we walked through the house.

“Ropes that were usually blocking doorways to the important rooms were down, allowing us to sit in chairs that some of the most important people in the world have sat in,” Jeup said.

Then he was able to meet the president, which was an exciting moment for the teens in the program.

He said it was unforgettable.

“Let me tell you, seeing the leader of the free world in person is something extremely special,” Jeup said. “He made a point of greeting each one of us personally.

“I shook his hand and told him it was a great honor to meet him,” Jeup said. “He said, ‘It’s great to meet you too, son.’”

Jeup has big plans for the future as he pursues a career as an entrepreneur, a love for business that seems to run in the family.

“My life plan, if you would like to call it that, is due to a culmination of the last 17 years,” he said. “Grosse Pointe is a great community that offers a great education and many opportunities for anyone who is willing to work hard.

“Growing up, my father owned a variety of different businesses,” Jeup said. “Watching him influenced me, but it was not until about three years ago when my first company, ViziWorks, took off that I really made the decision to wholeheartedly pursue entrepreneurship.”

As for his immediate plans after high school, Jeup is on the hunt for the right college with his search narrowed to five schools, he said.

His plans include studying business entrepreneurship.

“I have always been very interested in business. I have an iPhone repair business now, and I look forward to growing that and moving on to bigger things after college,” he said.

For future students, Jeup recommends others consider taking part in the Boys Nation program, and wanted to thank McCrary for his sponsorship.

“It is a remarkable program,” Jeup said. “You’ll meet incredible people, and it’s a week that will change your life.”