Boys’ State was founded to embolden the democratic foundations of our nation and to ensure a capable and patriotic citizenry would confront the challenges faced by our nation. The American Legion believes there is no better way to assure the survival of our republic than to train our young people in the ideals and objectives of American Government. By teaching youth to understand and appreciate the basic principles involved in the successful management of a democratic society, America can remain strong and ensure our freedom for future generations.
American Legion Boys’ State is a unique summertime educational program that does not emphasize classroom lecture and textbook learning. Instead, it focuses on participation and personal experience in a model state, complete with governing bodies, political parties, lobbyists, and elected public officials. It is designed to mirror the structure and operation of its representative state government.
Boys’ State is designed to supplement the information taught in high school civics classes. It is an activity born out of a need for youth training in practical citizenship, leadership, and the operation of state government.
The Boys’ State dream was formulated in the minds of Legionnaires Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, both educators and members of the American Legion of Illinois. The format for Boys’ State was laid out by Harold Card and fashioned from a system he employed to properly organize a Boy Scout camp. Shorthanded on staff, he allowed the young men to govern themselvesÂ—hold an election, elect a mayor, and a city council. Additional appointments were made to cover positions like police, fire, health, and sanitation officials. Harold Card found the young men became so enthused in carrying out their city duties; they nearly neglected their other assignments. The young men were learning by doing.
The first Boys’ State was conducted at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in June of 1934. The program was adopted the following year by the national organization and a decade later by the American Legion Department of Nevada. The Nevada Boys’ State Program began under the guidance of Doc Martie and has experienced great levels of growth and success since its inception. Now, more than sixty years later, over a million delegates have graduated from the program, which continues to provide the opportunity to learn by doing. The way of life we prize is still indirectly threatened by forms of government alien to our democratic ideals, and by the growing apathy among our own citizenry. The American Legion continues to sponsor and conduct Boys’ State in the belief that young citizens who are familiar with the operation of our system of government will be better prepared to uphold its ideals and maintain it for future generations.
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, mutual-help, war-time veterans organizatio and community-service organization which now numbers nearly 3 million members, men and women, in nearly 15,000 American Legion Posts worldwide. The aims of the American Legion, held dear by all Americans, are best summarized in the preamble of their constitution, which reads:
“We associate ourselves together for the following purpose: to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism; to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the great wars; to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; to make right the master of might; to promote peace and goodwill on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”
Nevada Boys’ State is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has helped me grow into who I am today. The program offers an “inside look” at how our local and state governments run while allowing delegates the chance to run for office. The counseling staff creates an environment for delegates to not only thrive — but grow. You leave the program forever changed with a newfound sense of honor and duty.
Nevada Boys State was an amazing experience where I made new, diverse, lifelong friends. I wish more programs were as awesome as NBS. My personal favorite part was passing legislation in the actual House of Representatives! So cool!
Trevor GoldsmithWest Career & Technical Academy, 2016
My son attended the 2017 Program of Nevada Boys State and found the event unlike anything he had ever experienced. He loved it, and the friendships he made in the one week, will last a lifetime. We can’t thank the men of the American Legion enough. What they do for the future of these young men is priceless.
This program was truly memorable. I attended as a delegate in 2012 and was able to create and develop new friendships I keep today and skills I continue to use. I highly recommend this program for any high school junior boy who wants to learn more about how local government works and how to develop the best external and internal leadership skills. When you fully engage yourself into the program, Nevada Boys State will be one of the best weeks of your life.
I attended this program as a youth and returned as a staffer. While it is hard to communicate the benefits of this one week program, one of the easiest things to say about Boys’ State is that it is fun. You’ll learn a lot about how your state and local government work, compete against your peers and other teams and realize you can do more than you thought was possible. I highly recommend this program to anyone who is serious about making meaningful improvements to their future and life or who wants to have a fun week away from home at UNR.
The program was phenomenal. I had the time of my life in just one week and made so many friends. I feel that I am a more knowledgeable person now when it comes to politics and that I have a greater understanding of what it means to lead.
It was the greatest experience that I have ever had away from my home for more than a week. I think what you do at NBS [Nevada Boys’ State] is great and I hope it continues for a very long time.
The American Legion has done outstanding things for America’s youth through the Boys State leadership program. When I was a young boy in Searchlight, going to school in Henderson, I had never traveled out of the area except to play baseball. During my Junior year I was selected to go to Nevada Boys’ State. We went 450 miles away to Reno, and that was a big deal for me. It was an experience I will never forget, so I have a great warmness in my heart for the American Legion and for the Nevada Boys’ State.
Senator Harry ReidUS Senate