Legion program seeing a rebound
American Legion Post No. 11 in Jefferson is looking for a few good men.
Young men, that is. And young women, too.
The Legion is seeking candidates for the American Legion Boys State/Girls State program.
Boys State and Girls State, held for a week in Des Moines each June, are open to Iowa high school students who have completed their junior year and have at least one semester remaining before graduation. In 2021, Boys State will take place June 13-18 at Camp Dodge and Girls State will be held June 20-25 at Drake University.
The cost for Boys State is $250. Girls State cost is $400. Girls stay in more private quarters at Drake, while the boys stay at Camp Dodge in more open bay facilities. The Boys State fee increases to $300 on Jan. 1, while the Girls State fee rises to $450 on Dec. 31.
Applications are now open by contacting the Jefferson American Legion post; Barb Labate at 515-386-5547 can provide more information. Phil Thompson at 515-391-7211 is current commander of the Jefferson post.
Boys State was founded in 1935 by two Illinois Legionnaires at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Girls State followed a few years later. The purpose of both organizations is to teach government from the township to the state level through a hands-on week.
Registration fees are paid by Jefferson Post No. 11 with funds provided by sponsoring businesses and organizations. The local Legion post is seeking both sponsors and interested high school juniors.
Eligible candidates should have a good scholastic ranking; possess qualities of leadership, scholarship, citizenship and willingness to participate; be citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S.; demonstrate an interest in American history, government and civics; and believe in the ideas of “God and country.”
Students who are selected learn about government organization, develop their leadership and public speaking skills, enjoy opportunities to earn scholarships, and meet and create long-lasting friendships.
A few decades ago, the Jefferson Legion post would send several young people to the programs each summer. Participation has dropped off in recent years, and the local post would like to restore interest among Greene County High School students.
Among the local students who attended Boys State or Girls State in the past were Haley Hall, Cael Fisher, Phil Thompson and David Yepsen. Avery Bardole was selected for 2020, but COVID-19 canceled the program this year.
From each state event, two participants are selected to go on to Boys Nation and Girls Nation, where they act as senators from their home states, organizing committees and conducting hearings on bills. Haley Hall was a participant in Girls Nation in 2017.
I was one of several boys from Jefferson chosen for Boys State in 1958.
It was a rewarding experience, with hands-on training in local and state government procedures that I drew on in the years afterward for my journalism and political activities. I also made friends with boys from around the state who shared my interest in politics and government.
I sincerely hope that local high school students grab the opportunity to meet their peers from around the state in summers to come, to learn first-hand what Iowa’s state and local government are all about.
And I hope that local businesses and organizations step up to provide sponsorships for them.
It’s an opportunity to encourage citizenship development for potential leaders, some of whom may bring their experiences back to benefit their home community.