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American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for high school students. It is a participatory program where each participant becomes a part of the operation of his local, county and state government.
Boys State has been a program of The American Legion since 1935 when it organized to counter the Fascist 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.
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.
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.
American Legion Boys State is currently conducted in 49 Departments of The American Legion. Hawaii does not conduct a program. As separate corporations, Boys States vary in content and method of procedure, but each and every Boys State adheres to the basic concept of the program - that of teaching government from the township to the state level.
In 1938 the Iowa Legion State Headquarters conducted the first “Hawkeye Boys State” at Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa. The young men were selected for outstanding citizenship and scholastic qualifications. They were brought together for training in patriotic citizenship and performance of all forms of government from state down to municipalities and leadership.
The Van Veen – Van Hemert Post 89 selected two young men to participate they were Everett Vander Voort and Herbert Vander Waal. At a later meeting in the year the young men reported on their experiences and expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to attend the camp.
In 1939 the post selected three young men to attend the camp. The young men were Floyd Mathes, Charles De Wild, and Ralph Wisse. These men also made a report back to the post that they enjoyed it immensely.
This has been a tradition by the Van Veen – Van Hemert Post 89 every year since.
The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a similar program for young ladies called Girls State. For online details visit http://www.boysandgirlsstate.org/girls.html