Buses loaded with 500 young men from almost all of Florida’s 67 counties recently traveled to the Florida state capital, Tallahassee, for the 76th session of the Florida American Legion Boys State.
Leyton Foxworthy, a rising senior in the COAST Academy at Cutler Bay High School (CBHS), participated in this weeklong event. Boys State takes place mostly on the Florida State University campus. The leadership program rallies high school rising seniors and educates them on governmental processes.
During the week, the participants — also referred to as delegates — form their own state and learn how civic entities operate. The delegates learn more about Florida politics through electing their own municipal, county and state governments. Many former alumni have gone on to pursue politics and remain active with the group.
The entire program is non-partisan. The Florida Boys State uses fictitious parties called “Nationalists” and “Federalists” where none of the principles characterized by any of the existing parties are adopted by Florida Boys State.
The first half of the week is allotted for lectures and practical information. To be qualified for legislative positions, students must test out of simulated “schools.” Delegates are given real-world tasks to handle in their respective positions.
Delegates visit the Capitol, where they proposed bills and conducted mock court cases. One delegate was elected as governor.
Participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county, and state governments operated by students elected to various offices. Instruction was presented on the law and court system, parliamentary procedure, and Florida political history.
At Florida Boys State, citizens gained hands-on experience and took part in the political process through role-play civic exercises.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried and Florida Highway Patrol Col. Gene Spaulding addressed the delegates this year. Other highlights for delegates included addresses from Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady and former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis.
The inauguration for the program-elected executive branch place on June 20 in the chambers of the Florida House of Representatives.
Alex Sargent, external communications director for the group, said the new crop of students are ambitious. In his five years working with Boys State, Sargent said he has not met a group of young men more inclined to learn.
“They’ve been engaged, they’ve been involved, and they’ve been excited,” Sargent said. “Just seeing them take the reigns has been exciting to see.”
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.