American Legion Boys State Returns to UM

By BY EDWIN B. SMITH,

American Legion Boys State Returns to UM

High school juniors from across Mississippi heading to campus for weeklong experience

OXFORD, Miss. – For the fourth year, the University of Mississippi hosts the American Legion Boys State beginning Sunday (May 26), bringing young men from across the state to campus for a week of events designed "to develop tomorrow's informed, responsible citizens."

The university was initially chosen to host Boys State for three consecutive years, beginning in 2016. This week begins a second three-year commitment to host the event.

"American Legion Boys State offers a tremendous learning experience in government and public service for the young men of Mississippi who aspire to lead," Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks said. "It is a privilege for the University of Mississippi to partner with the American Legion as we host this outstanding program on our campus."

The university is dedicated to nurturing leaders, and the campus community is particularly pleased to host Boys State again this year, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor of student affairs.

"Many look to Ole Miss to provide top-tier education and leadership experiences for in-state students," she said. "These young men have the opportunity to come to campus and be a part of our amazing student-centered culture during Boys State. They get to be a part of the Ole Miss experience, and that is critical."

As many as 400 delegates will stay on campus and have access to the university departments and programs. While at Ole Miss, they will perform the functions of state and local governments to develop their leadership, political skills and understanding of governing and citizenship.

"We see the UM's investment in Boys State as an investment into our state," said Hunter Pace, Boys State coordinator. "Right now, nothing is more important than shaping our leaders of tomorrow and that's what we strive to do every year.

"We are thrilled to be back on the Oxford campus of the University of Mississippi for the next three years."

The young men learn how city, county and state governments function through simulating those jobs. They also conduct debates and give speeches ahead of the Boys State elections.

The election results will be announced live at 7:30 p.m. May 31 in Fulton Chapel.

This year's litany of speakers includes national and state leaders such as Gov. Phil Bryant, Attorney Gen. Jim Hood, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, State Rep. Jay Hughes, Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis, ESPN senior sports writer Wright Thompson and Blair Wortsmith, the reigning Miss University.

The delegates alsowill  participate in a Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. May 27 at the flagpole in the Circle. Public and local officials are invited to attend.

The Illinois American Legion created the Boys State program in 1934, and Mississippi's began in 1938. The program was officially adopted by the national organization in 1945. The goal of the program is to show that democracy needs both an intelligent citizenry and also a moral, honest and impartial administration that is responsive to the will of the people.

The nonpartisan program is open to young men who are high school juniors and is conducted each year across the country through each state's Department of the American Legion. It's estimated that more than 28,000 young men annually participate in the civic workshops.

The gathering is designed to be a virtual 51st state, with a constitution, statutes and ordinances constructed by its citizens to govern themselves. Mississippi's Boys State is known as the mythical state of Magnolia.

Participants are required to review knowledge about political workings of state and local government, and they perform the same duties as actual officeholders in the real world.

"It is an incredible opportunity to showcase what our great university has to offer to not only student delegates, but prospective students as well," said Bradley Baker, director of the Ole Miss Student Union. "Additionally, we are excited to be able to host the majority of Boys State activities in the newly renovated Student Union."