American Legion Boys State is one of the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for high school students. This year, Jon Owens, Elijah Johnson, Cade Covalt, Kale Hart, Harley Hux, Blake Mayfield, Landon Eaton, and Andrew Long from Kingfisher High School were all selected to be a part of the program.
Boys State was started by the American Legion in 1935 in response to the growing threat of communism. The overall goal then, and still today, was to teach American values and the benefits of a democratic way of life. Oklahoma’s Boys State program started in 1939.
While at Boys State, students participate in various activities including a government simulation where they elect officials and get to discuss various issues facing the world today. Another vital skill that they learn is leadership. Jared Harrison, Chief Operating Officer of Oklahoma American Legion Boys State, stated that “we like to think we create a leadership laboratory of sorts allowing the young men to try and see different leadership styles to be able to become a more effective leader in their schools, community, state, and nation.” The students are able to take on leadership roles in more than just the government simulations. They also have sports teams and E-Sports teams. Harrison said that “by the end of the week, they will have seen and developed several new leadership skills that they will be able to employ to make their hometowns even better.”
Boys State also features a panel of speakers who bring a diverse range of expertise, including lawyers, doctors, military personnel, entrepreneurs, and more. This year, Col. Charles DeBellevue, the last USAF fighter pilot Ace from the Vietnam War, and Dr. Richard Haass, the President of the US Council on Foreign Relations, were the speakers.
Not everything at Boys State is all serious business though. They also have various recreational activities, a band concert, and a talent show.
Another advantage of taking part in this program is that students can earn college credits for upper-division concurrent enrollment upon completion of the program. Also, Rogers State University in Claremore, where the program is hosted, offers a $12,000 scholarship to those who complete the program. After completing the program, students become part of the Boys State Alumni group which includes US Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Executives, and other professionals. Belonging to that group provides individuals with a network of connections that can aid in their career advancement in the future.
Oklahoma Boys State 2024 will be May 25th – June 1st at Rogers State University. The fee for each student is $285 until January 1st and $299 until mid-April of next year. Harrison added, “Normally, local businesses or American Legion Posts will happily pay that fee for the students, so most all in attendance are able to be part of the program and receive all of the benefits for no money out of pocket.”
This program sets students up with not only educational experiences, but also networking opportunities and a newfound appreciation for how democracy works, and how to work with others. Harrison stated, “We call it The Week That Shapes A Lifetime. It sounds a little odd to hear that, but once they experience the program most of the past attendees understand the meaning of the phrase and will agree with it wholeheartedly.” For more information, visit okboysstate.com.