American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county, and state government, Boys State was founded in 1935 to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps. The program was the idea of two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, who organized the first Boys State at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a separate but similar program for young women called Girls State.
At Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county, and state governments operated by students elected to various offices. Instruction will also be presented on the law and court system, parliamentary procedure, and Florida political History.
At Florida Boys State, citizens will gain hands-on experience to leadership by taking part in the political process through role-play civic exercises.
Citizens of Florida Boys State not only will be required to review knowledge already acquired concerning the political machinery of the state of Florida, but they will find themselves running for office as real candidates do in the everyday world. Citizens will be organized into a mythical city, county, and state from where they choose their own officials in accordance with regular election procedures. From there, they learn the duties of the various city, county, and state officers, and they introduce and argue their own bills in a Legislature.
The entire program is non-partisan. Problems will be considered without reference to any existing political party and will be free from propaganda to enable the boys to understand some of the responsibilities they will encounter when they become adults. The selection and assignment of the boys to the political parties is in no way connected with the existing political parties in Florida. The Florida Boys State uses mythical parties called “Nationalists” and “Federalists” where none of the principles characterized by any of the existing parties will be adopted by Florida Boys State.