BY JAMES P. MERZKE, POST #664 BOYS STATE CHAIRMAN
The first man to walk on the moon. A US President. A Super Bowl MVP. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other than reaching the pinnacle of their chosen professions, it sounds like a disparate list. What connects Neil Armstrong, Bill Clinton, Hines Ward and Bruce Springsteen? They all attended American Legion Boys State.
What is Boys State? Although it may sound to some like a work camp for troubled young men, that could not be further from the truth.
Sponsored by the American Legion Department of New York, The American Legion Boys’ State of New York, Inc. is a citizenship training and familiarity program for young men who have completed their junior year in high school in the top half of their class. They have further demonstrated qualifications through a screening and interview process that indicate they have excelled in certain areas, and that they will be successful delegates to Boys State.
Boys State began in 1935, the idea of two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card. Within a few years it was adopted as a national program and is currently held in 49 of the 50 states. New York’s first Boys State was held at the Syracuse Fairgrounds in 1938, and the week-long session has been held at SUNY Morrisville almost continuously since 1966.
The program is one of practical citizenship, wherein the attendees form their own government modelled on cities, counties, and the state. Each citizen is eligible to hold office and each citizen can vote. Through this process the attendees gain a better perspective of their government, and an appreciation for the fact that their government is truly what they make it. There are other activities as well, including sports, band, a website and a newspaper. One thing there is not much of is “downtime.” Ever present to help the attendees “be where they need to be” are members of the United States Marine Corps. The week concludes with a ceremonial parade and picnic which parents are encouraged to attend.
American Legion Falls Post #664 is privileged to have a very positive working relationship with both the Honeoye Falls-Lima School District and Lima’s American Legion Francis M. Dalton Post #282. After pre-screening by the school, members of our two Post’s Boys State Committees jointly interview prospective candidates and determine which ones will be sponsored.
Falls Post #664 has been able to send nine excellent delegates to Boys State since 2013, including a name that appears in the masthead of this paper – Peter Carosa. Two other names associated with this paper, Josh Alcorn and Cesidia Carosa, attended Boys State and Girls State, respectively. This year the Post is honored to send two more impressive young men, Jack Emerson of Mendon and Robert B. Nolan of Pittsford. Our Post works closely with the Monroe County American Legion leadership, and when a candidate from Pittsford abruptly lost his sponsor, Post #664 was able to step up and make sure that qualified individual was able to attend. Post Commander John Connelly and myself as Post Boys State Chairman were able to meet and speak with these boys and their parents at a recent orientation picnic and we are pleased to have both of them represent our Post and community at Boys State.
This year’s program ran from Sunday, June 24th through Friday, June 29th at SUNY Morrisville. Post #664 looks forward to the boys’ report on the experience. If you are currently a male high school sophomore and Boys State sounds like something that might be of interest, talk to your Guidance Office and look for information about next year’s program in January or February. Interviews usually occur late February or early March. You can learn more at: https://nylegion.net/boys-state/.
The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors the Empire Girls State Program for young women. Information for that program can be found here: http://www.empiregirlsstate.org/.