© AWP and VA Boys State

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.

What you will do at Boys State
Boys State Objectives
Program Highlights
Boys Nation
Physical Exam and Medical Form
Health Insurance

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.

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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.

Physical Exam and Medical Form

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 the program. The medical form can be found on the Pledge Card and must be signed and completed by a licensed physician. The cost of the physical exam is the responsibility of the parents of the delegate. The Pledge Card can be found on the Citizens page.

Health Insurance Coverage

As stated on the medical form, delegates bring a photocopy of their health insurance card. The Boys State insurance policy covers delegates while at the program but is in excess to any and all other insurance. Those without health insurance coverage should search the internet for "Short Term Insurance Coverage" and obtain a policy. Attach a printed receipt to the medical form.

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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 Nation

Two senators from each of the 49 Boys States represent their state at Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. each year, and two delegates from Virginia Boys State will have this honor.

At the event, each delegate acts as a senator from his Boys State. The young lawmakers caucus at the beginning of the session, then organize into committees and conduct hearings on bills submitted by program delegates.

Senators learn the proper method of handling bills, according to U.S. Senate rules. Participation in the political process is emphasized throughout the week, including organization of party conventions and nominating and electing a president and vice president.

The week of government training also includes lectures, forums and visits to federal agencies, national shrines, institutions, memorials and historical sites. On Capitol Hill, Boys Nation senators meet with elected officials from their home states.

Since Boys Nation began in 1946, a number of its graduates have been elected to public office, including presidents, congressmen, state governors and state legislators. Many others have been inspired to work for the campaigns of individuals seeking public office.

For more information

The American Legion, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206
Email boysstate-nation@legion.org
Website http://legion.org/boysnation

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The selection process involves counselor recommendations and a interview process; two senators and two alternates will be selected. The program is held in Washington, D.C. during the month of July. All expenses are paid by the American Legion Boys Nation program.

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.

Rear Admiral William Cobb US Navy (Ret)
© AWP and VA Boys State

Program Highlights

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.


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 Radford 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 Honorable Bruce Jamerson shakes hands with newly
inducted mayors.
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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 Radford 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.

Governor William M. Tuck reviewed the 300 boys who attended the fourth Old Dominion Boys' State held at Virginia Tech June 23 to 29 [1946]. He attended the inauguration ceremony of the boy governor, J.B. Johnson, Wise County, who is standing at hi right. Lewis Tyree, Newport News, who was elected boy governor in 1941, and who presided until Johnson's election is at extreme left. Immediately back of Governor Tuck is President Hutcheson. At Governor Tuck's left is Morgan W. Strother, Richmond, commander of the Virginia Department of the American Legion; S.K. Charles Crush, Christiansburg, director of Boys' State; A.C. Gray '35, manager of the Student Activities Building which served as the Boys' State "Capitol," and W. Glenn Elliott, Richmond, American Legion adjutant.