About Boys State

American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state government, Boys State was founded in 1935 to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps. The program was the idea of two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, who organized the first Boys State at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a separate but similar program for young women called Girls State.

At Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses and recreational programs.

Legion posts select high school juniors to attend the program. In most cases, individual expenses are paid by a sponsoring post, a local business or another community-based organization.

Boys State programs currently exist in all Legion departments in the United States except Hawaii. As separate corporations, Boys State programs vary in content and method of procedure, but each adheres to the same basic concept: teaching government from the township to the state level.

Boys State Eligibility

The American Legion has certain qualifications for prospective Boys State citizens. Following are the recommended guidelines employed by most Boys State programs:

Only males who have successfully completed their junior year of high school and who have at least one more semester remaining are considered. Previous participants of a Boys State competition are not allowed to attend a second session. Only those who illustrate leadership, character, scholarship, loyalty and service in their schools and community should be considered. Merit and ability are the basis for evaluation during the actual citizens selection process.

Boys State competitions are in compliance with federal handicap laws. Most programs require a medical/parental consent certificate signed by a parent and registered doctor.

The selection process often differs in Legion departments.

The ideal method is for schools to recommend lists of eligible candidates to local Legion posts. The post would then conduct interviews and select their representative(s) for the program.

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