Nearly 1,000 rising high school seniors from throughout Louisiana have again converged on the Northwestern State University campus for an intense week of learning about government and civic engagement. This is the 10th year that NSU has hosted Louisiana Boys State and Louisiana Girls State, a summer leadership and citizenship program sponsored by the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary for high school students.
Winding ranks of young men and women marching across campus, chanting and singing has become a familiar sight as the concurrent programs utilize NSU classrooms, meeting spaces and dining halls. Participants – called citizens – are divided into parishes and elected to city, parish and state administrative offices where they draft bills and perform other government procedures to actively learn about patriotism, service and civic responsibility.
Boys State Citizen Ricky Bryant of Bossier City said his week has been amazing.
“We learned about government and we also learned how to accept each other and how we can apply our strengths together and create a strong brotherhood that nothing can break,” said Bryant who was Speaker of the House and worked on projects related to funding relief efforts in the aftermath of a hurricane, regulating medical marijuana and a less serious bill that prohibited citizens from stepping on cracks. “It’s relaxed but serious at the same time,” Bryant said.
Bryant was not the only citizen to mention brotherhood in his comments about the Boys State experience.
“It’s been amazing,” said Cameron Carter of Houma. “I love the chanting, I love the brotherhood. I am the only person from my school to be at Boys State or Girls State. When we were chanting, it brought us all together.”
Megan Guilbeau of Pineville, an experience public speaker who was running for governor, said that winning the office was not as important as the relationships she formed at Girls State.
“I’ve had the most amazing experience,” said Guilbeau who hopes to return next year as a counselor. “People talk about the magic of Girls State but I didn’t expect just how magical it is.”
In addition to the citizens, about 80 counselors and junior counselors participate in the program along with dozens of Legion and Auxiliary staff. Citizens and counselors agree that the Boys and Girls State experience is one that makes lifelong memories.
“Girls State influenced my major, which is political science,” said Nikki Stone of Chalmette, a Girls State counselor for three years who attends Loyola University and plans to attend law school.
Louisiana Boys State began in 1940, followed by Louisiana Girls State in 1941. Citizens are sponsored by an American Legion Post, local business or community-based organization. Both groups noted the positive relationship they have developed with Northwestern State as host to Boys and Girls State since 2007.
Users can follow each program on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. An awards convocation that begins at 1:45 p.m. Saturday, July 1 in A.A. Fredericks Auditorium is open to parents.
“We are proud to have hosted Louisiana Boys State and Louisiana Girls State since 2007,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio. “We welcome these young leaders and the NSU staff works very hard too coordinate logistics with the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary to ensure everything runs smoothly and each citizen has the best possible experience.”