2009 © Andrew Wilds Photography
About Virginia Boys State
The Boys State Program
American Legion Boys State is among the most respected educational programs of government instruction for high school students. Each participant becomes a part of the operation of his local, county and state government.
At American Legion Boys State, participants are exposed to the rights and privileges, the duties and the responsibilities of a franchised citizen. The training is objective and practical with city, county and state governments operated by the students elected to the various offices. Activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, chorus and recreational programs.
2009 © Andrew Wilds Photography
High school juniors are selected by local American Legion Posts to attend the program. In most cases, expenses associated with attending this program are paid by a sponsoring American Legion Post, a local business or another community-based organization.
Virginia Boys State is a "leadership action program", designed to develop a working knowledge of the structure of government and to impress upon the citizen the fact that our government is just what we make it. Along the way they will have the opportunity to learn the political process. Each level of government will be run by those delegates who are elected to serve. Instruction will be presented on the law and court system, parliamentary procedure and Virginia political history.
What you will do at Boys State
You will create an effective political organization, operating from the local through the state level. The government organization provides for such features as city and state elections. The citizens are organized into two political parties: the Nationalist Party and the Federalist Party.
Boys State Objectives
Boys State is a non-partisan program which encompasses the following objectives:
- To develop civic leadership and pride in American Citizenship.
- To arouse a keen interest in the detailed study of our government.
- To develop in the citizens a determination to maintain our form of government, primarily by bringing them to the realization of how great it is to be an American.
- To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the Community, State and Nation.
Boys State is a learning experience in practical democracy.
- Citizens learn the political process through the election process for the offices of the mythical 51st state.
- Each delegate is assigned to a political party which has no philosophy or platform until the delegates develop one.
- Delegates use the basic laws and procedures of the State of Virginia as a guide for their week.
- Speakers from all levels of government provide valuable lessons for the delegates.
- A highly qualified staff provides guidance and leadership.
- Two delegates will participate in Boys Nation held in Washington, D.C. in July.
The Honorable Bruce Jamerson shakes hands with newly
2009 © Andrew Wilds Photography
Within the Commonwealth of Virginia, for one week each year, a new state comes into being. The physical boundaries of this state are the limits of the Liberty University campus, but there are no limits to its usefulness in promoting real life citizenship.
The youth movement known as Boys State was originally sponsored by the American Legion to counteract Pioneer Camps which were being conducted in the United States by the Nazi Freedom Foundation. Pioneer Camps taught that although the democratic form of government has served its purpose well, it was outdated and should be replaced by a fascist form of government. Legionnaires in Illinois decided to organize schools to teach youth the American way of life—AMERICANISM. They believed that youth knew the rights and privileges they enjoy under our form of government, and that they would never support any "-ism" except Americanism.
The Americanism Committee of the American Legion of Illinois obtained use of the State Fairgrounds for a week in June 1935. Volunteer American Legion counselors assembled at the Fairgrounds to clean and disinfect cattle stalls, set up borrowed bunks, arrange meeting rooms, purchase food, and set up a field kitchen borrowed from the National Guard.
They had contacted all the high school principals of their state and asked them to select their junior class leaders to attend the new government school to study the Constitution and the government of the state of Illinois. Two hundred and thirty five high school leaders arrived to participate in the government school. During that week, delegates were asked to suggest a suitable name for the program. The name BOYS STATE was offered by one of the delegates and unanimously adopted.
Other states followed Illinois in organizing Boys State programs. In 1939, the American Legion Department of Virginia, with the cooperation of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, organized the Old Dominion Boys State. The program was not held during the war years 1942-1945. Since 1956, the official name of the program has been THE AMERICAN LEGION BOYS STATE OF VIRGINIA, INC. It currently meets each June on the campus of Liberty University.
The program of training has been developed on the assumption that youth can best learn by doing. The mechanics of government are patterned after those actually used in local and state governments in Virginia. Boys State is a true democracy in that all of its citizens may vote and are eligible to hold office. It aims at all times to make its programs of training in citizenship effective by creating a wide range of opportunities for participation in all forms of government.
The danger of Nazism no longer exists in today's world. Yet, our way of life is still threatened by forms of government alien to our democratic ideas as well as apathy among our own citizens. The American Legion continues to sponsor Boys State in the belief that young citizens who are familiar with the operation of our government will be better prepared to uphold its ideals.
2010 © Andrew Wilds Photography
Parents are not allowed to buy their son's way into Boys State, and parents of boys selected to attend Boys State will not be asked to pay the registration fee. Parents will only be responsible for the cost of the Medical and Physical Requirements.
All delegates must be able to actively participate in the program for the full week. Delegates must have a physical exam certifying that they are healthy and free of communicable diseases, and do not have any medical condition that would preclude them from this program. This medical form must be properly signed and completed by a licensed physician. The cost of the physical exam is the responsibility of the parents of the delegate. A special medical insurance policy covers delegates at the program, but is excess to any and all other insurance.
Proud Sponsors of the 71st Session
The American Legion extends gratitude for all of the private donations and sponsors that make the 71st Session of Virginia Boys State possible.
Legion Posts may solicit sponsorships from other organizations. Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Masons, Knights of Columbus and other patriotic or civic organizations help sponsor delegates to Boys State. All fees are paid by the local American Legion Post.