Every summer I travel to Manhattan, Kansas, and spend nearly two weeks volunteering with one of the greatest youth programs in the state — the American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy. Here is how I generally explain what Boys State is:
For those of you who don’t know, Boys State is a week-long government camp for high school males entering their senior year.
But simply calling it a government camp isn’t right. It is so much more than that. It is a leadership camp that uses government as a model to facilitate the learning of leadership.
Government is used because, as Director of Development Thane Chastain said, “The fact is it affects all of our lives. It is a good model.”
In order to allow the Staters the chance to become leaders, the entire program is project-based. Staters can run for offices and take part in jobs and activities that government leaders actually take part in.
The hope is also to build patriotism, Chastain said.
To facilitate this, there is no political slant to the program. The staff is intentionally diverse in terms of beliefs.
This benefits Staters because they can hear different view points and decide their own beliefs by analyzing what they’ve said and heard. The key is to listen.
“It’s like a smorgasbord for your ears,” Chastain said. “It’s one thing to be influenced by people. It’s another thing to simply parrot back what you’ve heard.”
The slogan of KS Boys State is, “A week that changed my life.”
If it weren’t for Boys State, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I got into journalism because of Boys State, and that has lead to everything else I have done so far in my life. Therefore, I feel obligated to give back to the program. It had such a huge impact on my life, I feel it is my duty to do whatever I can to ensure future delegates (we call them Staters) have the same life-changing experience.
So, I give up two weeks during the summer and countless hours in the off-season to help out. Over the past few years I have been the yearbook/photography counselor. I was in charge of capturing images from all of the events of each day. Then I combined them into a 32-page, softcover yearbook sharing those memories with the Staters. At the same time, I was also the unofficial head of the daily newspaper and daily news broadcast the Staters produced while at State.
This year, I was made the official head of the media department. Essentially, it was merely a title change as I had been filling that role already, but it was nice to be recognized.
Toward the end of the week, it was announced that coordinator positions (the people in charge of the operations of the program) were coming open. At the urging of one of the current coordinators, I applied for a position on this executive staff.
Much to my surprise, I was selected to be a Coordinator for the coming session. I am now the Curriculum Coordinator, which means I am in charge of and responsible for the curriculum of the entire program. I am humbled by my selection, and I am excited to get to work on ensuring the program continues to provide the stellar benefits it is known for. I realize it will entail a lot of work, but I am ready for it. My passion for the Boys State program knows no bounds, and I know that will fuel my drive to reach for new heights in the curriculum we provide for our Staters.
Saturday I attended a Wichita, Kansas, meeting for the program. A lot of fellowship was shared, and all of us in attendance discussed our thoughts on the 2013 session. It was a great time, and it gave me a lot to think about. Tonight, in just a few hours, I will take part in my first conference call as a Coordinator. This makes it all real. The work for the 2014 session is underway, and I couldn’t be more jazzed to see what the new Coordinator Team will come up with.
One of our goals for this year is to increase our numbers. We want more Staters to attend. If you know of a young man who would be a good fit for the program, please visit this link and nominate them: http://www.kansasboysstate.org/nominate-a-young-man-for-boys/. It is truly a week that will change their lives, so please help be that cause of good for a young man.