According to girls-state.org, “The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary began an effort over five decades ago to devise a means to:
educate youth in the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship; give future citizens, in a realistic manner, an opportunity to learn the problems of government by performing the same duties as real office holders in the everyday world; inform them of the rights and privileges of American citizenship; instill a deep sense of the personal responsibilities and obligations which this citizenship entails.”
Brandon, Brody, Gerardo, Collin, and Daniel from Smithville High School attended Boys State this past summer, while DezJ’nae and Cristina attended Girls State. These students were all nominated by their teachers to attend their respective State programs.
Gerardo says “when we got there, they told us that we probably would not know anyone from around the area. But when I got there, it ended up being that we actually almost everybody from our football district.”
These Smithville High School students participate in many extracurricular activities. DezJ’nae is in cheerleading, track, student council, powerlifting, National Honor Society, and she helps coach the schools special olympics. Brody is class president, president of FFA, president of student council, in FCA, and in robotics.
From the Boys State website, “Begun in 1935, (this) is a unique program that educates future leaders about government, civics, and patriotism in a “learn by doing” environment. Each delegate has just finished his junior year of high school and was hand-picked by teachers, counselors, and local American Legion posts throughout Texas to attend this one week seminar.”
Brandon explained that “Our application packets are given to the American Legion in Smithville and they review those applications and then select students to do an interview.”
“During the week, the delegates were evenly split into fictional parties of the Nationalists and Federalists. Each party drafted party platforms, elected party officials, nominated candidates via primary elections, and contested a general election against the rival party and its candidates. The delegates ran for many kinds of offices including state, district, county, and city offices. Those elected to the House of Representatives and Senate spent the week drafting, debating, and passing bills on a wide range of social and economic issues.” also found on texasboysstate.com.
Brandon was in the Senate and Collin was in the House of Representatives, because of these standings “we actually got to travel to the Capital 2 or 3 days out of that week and sit in the Senate and House chambers. We got to write and pass legislation and they didn’t tell us what we could or couldn’t pass.”
Daniel explained “It was given to us, the boys in the program, to basically run the whole thing while the adults and counselors sat in the background. It was about learning how our government works.”
“It helped us understand politics more and everything that goes into it.” Brody said
Cristina stated “I think an important thing they did at Girls State was, because right now we are super polarized with Democrats and Republicans, is they said ‘we should all be purple’ and find some middle ground somewhere. I think it is a huge issue right now, that people don’t know how to be purple.”
American Legion Boys/Girls State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for high school students. It is a participatory program where each student becomes a part of the operation of his/her local, county, and state government.