What is Boys State?



Boys State is an educational program sponsored by the American Legion Departments across the country to help young men learn about government and how it works. Our motto is "Learn by Doing". The Boys State educational staff's goal is to facilitate the learning process by giving the citizens of Boys State an opportunity to govern themselves, and to run their own state.


Boys State is...LEARNING.


Delegates have the opportunity to learn more about their city, county, and state government in one week at Boys State than in an entire semester in a formal classroom setting. Boys Staters meet with elected and appointed officials to learn more about the duties and responsibilities of a variety of positions in government from people on the "inside." Additionally, in Boys State, each citizen has the opportunity to learn for himself that his government is just what he makes it.


Boys State is...POLITICS.


The first half of your Boys State experience will expose you to the world of politics. You will nominate candidates for partisan and non-partisan offices on the city, county, and state level. You will also no doubt, be exposed to the "seamy" side of politics...the wheeling and dealing, the promises that cannot be kept, the vote trading, and the cajoling, to give a candidate or a party that "extra advantage."


Boys State is...GOVERNMENT.


When the dust has settled from the conventions, campaigns, and elections, Boys State needs to be governed for four days by its elected and appointed officials. Boys Staters will find themselves performing exactly the same functions as real office holders in the everyday world. Education and University Boards must make policies for their areas of responsibility. City councils, county commissions, and the state legislature must make ordinances and laws for their constituencies. Executive departments and other administrators must see that laws and policies are properly interpreted.


Boys State is...INVOLVEMENT.


Come to Boys State determined to become as involved as possible in the many activities that are available to you in this mythical 51st state. The more active and involved you are, the more you will benefit from the program.


Boys State is...FRIENDSHIP.


You may arrive at Boys State knowing no one else. However, one of the fringe benefits of Boys State is how easy it is to get to know people, many of whom may remain your friend for the rest of your life.

History of Boys State


The youth movement in the United States known as Boys State originated by the Illinois Department of The American Legion in 1934. The plan was adopted by the national organization in 1935, and has since been put into operation in all states except Hawaii. A Boys State is operated in the District of Columbia and also in France for Americans living in Europe.


Boys State began in Michigan in 1937. Almost all of the staff is made up of college students who are former Boys Staters who have had a continuing interest in the program. Senior staff members include educators, counselors and lawyers.


Michigan State University was the host for Boys State in Michigan from 1938 until 2007. In the early days, Boys Staters slept on cots in the main room of Demonstration Hall. Assemblies were held in the same hall during the day. After World War II, the Quonset huts--which used to be located across from where Munn Ice arena is now located--provided shelter for Boys Staters. In 1954, Boys State moved to Brody Hall, which is surrounded by six dormitories. Meals and assemblies were held in Brody Hall.


From the beginning of Boys State, the program has grown in numbers to meet the needs of the youth in Michigan. The present program includes up to 500 of the youth leaders of our state each year. Participants are selected by local high schools and Legion posts throughout the State of Michigan.


In 2008, the Boys State program moved to Northwood University.


In 2017, the Boys State program moved to its present location at Grand Valley State University.