Boys State Program

The American Legion Boys State program is among the most respected and selective educational programs for U.S. high school students. It's 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 Nazi (Fascist)-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, IL.

Developing leadership skills, confidence and action-based understanding of the government process gives young men and women a lasting foundation for success, both personally and professionally. The American Legion believes that educating youth about the basic ideals and principles of government will help ensure the survival of our democracy.

Boys State is a unique and exciting government-in-action learning program in which American Legion members guide young men to become knowledgeable stewards of freedom, democracy and help them to become patriotic citizens.

Purpose Statement

To provide an outstanding, unique, and coveted educational opportunity for the young men of our nation that instills basic ideals and principles of American government through citizenship training programs. Young men and women become knowledgeable of democratic processes and how our republic form works at the state and national levels.

Program Objectives

  • Develop leadership and pride in American citizens.
  • Educate citizens about our system of government.
  • Instill a greater understanding of American traditions.
  • Stimulate a desire to maintain our democratic government processes within our republic.

Selection Criteria

To be eligible, young men must be high school students who have completed their junior year (and have at least one semester left before graduation), and be keenly interested in government and current events.

All students must possess high moral character; show strong leadership abilities, and demonstrate above-average scholastic achievement.

Where & When

The Washington DC American Legion's 2018 program will be held at the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters at 25 Louisiana Ave., NW, just blocks from Union Station and Capitol Hill. It will be held in July 2018 (exact dates still to be announced). Daily sessions start at 9 am and conclude at 4:30 pm.


The cost of Boys State programs are underwritten by each American Legion Department. Boys State delegates’ registration fees are paid for by the sponsoring local American Legion unit with additional support and funding sometimes coming from various civic and nonprofit organizations. Participating students may incur nominal expenses for transportation, site-specific fees, or contribution to an optional service project.


The deadline to apply for Boys State is Monday, April 2, 2018. More information will be available here soon, including the application form.

Leveling Up: Boys Nation

Every year, two outstanding boys from each program are selected to attend American Legion Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. As Boys Nation “senators,” they campaign for political office, craft and debate the passage of legislation, and meet with their real-life counterparts on Capitol Hill. Besides a chance to experience the workings of federal government personally, they gain further opportunities to sharpen their leadership skills and learn American heritage. They also may be afforded the opportunity to meet with the President of the United States. Details are available at

For more information, please contact:

The American Legion Department of the District of Columbia
Phone : (202) 362-9151
2121 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 68
Washington, DC 20007