Boys And Girls State: Summer 2024

By: Rod Hoffman

In 1935 and 1937 respectively, the American Legion formed two organizations known as Boys State and Girls State to teach young people how to be informed, astute, and involved American citizens who understood the Constitution of the United States. Here at the Alabama state level the organizations have been active since that time, and on May 6 of this year at the Alabama Veterans Museum in Athens there was an impressive presence representing both Boys and Girls State. Bob Borden is the Post 49 American Legion Chairman for Boys State, and Dr. Leann Whittaker, President of the Post 49 American Legion Auxiliary, heads up Girls State for Limestone County. Each year Post 49 gathers delegates for an evening of food, fellowship, and preparation prior to their respective conferences, and they get a chance to hear from previous attendees, officers, and adult leadership to ready them for success when they attend conference. The preparation gathering also includes parents, and is unique in the state. Speakers and trainers for the evening included Camden Kent, Ali Turner, Yancey Mitchell, Tom Fleming, and Brandon Bruski.

The delegates attend their respective conventions during the summer between their junior and senior years, and for one week are immersed in an intensely organized and fast-paced time of instruction and hands-on experience intended to improve the delegates’ leadership skills and their understanding of local and state government. They also get an opportunity to visit the Alabama State capitol in Montgomery and meet with various government officials. Once again, Troy University hosted both week-long events.

Another aspect of both organizations is the opportunity for delegates to apply for scholarships, and nationally, millions of dollars of scholarship money is donated to Boys and Girls State conferees. In Alabama, the colleges and universities who donate scholarship money are Troy State, University of Alabama, Auburn University, University of North Alabama, University of West Alabama, University of South Alabama, University of Montevallo, Marion Military Institute, and Jackson State University. In addition, Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, and Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia offer scholarships to Alabama attendees.

During Boys and Girls State, delegates or “senators” are selected to go to Boys and Girls Nation, held each year in the Washington, DC area. For both conferences, the attendees are divided into two groups known as the Federalists and the Nationalists, and they conduct a convention for their respective party, set platforms, elect officers, have debates, sponsor legislation, and more. For the national conferences, 98 delegates will be attending Boys State. Hawaii has Girls State, but not Boys State.

From July 19-July 26, Boys Nation will be held at Marymount University in Arlington, VA, and Girls Nation will be held from July 20-27. Attendees have described both events at the state and national levels as being “life-changing” and “unforgettable”, and it is an honor to be selected as a delegate or a senator. Brandon Bruski of Madison has some great advice for all attendees: “Stay alert, be cooperative, stay on schedule, because you will have a lot to do, and the time will pass quickly.”

People as diverse as Rush Limbaugh, Nick Saban, Michael Jordan, and Jane Pauley have participated in the program through the years, and who knows who might emerge from the State of Alabama in the future? Time will tell, and for now, Boys and Girls State will continue to build the leaders of the future.

By: Rod Huffman, Information Officer, American Legion Post 49, Athens