Two Jesuit students who attended Boys State this summer, Paul Gray '22 and Dakota Colangelo '22, wrote about their experience.
For 76 years, the American Legion has hosted a nationwide leadership program called Boys State. A selective, week-long summer program for rising seniors, Boys State participants "learn the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of franchised citizens, with training centered on the structure of city, county, and state governments." Operated by students – delegates – elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses, and recreational programs.
In Florida, Boys State is held on the Florida State University campus in the state capital of Tallahassee, with the participants sleeping in college dorms for the week and attending sessions in the Tucker Civic Center, just a short walk from the Florida Supreme Court and the State Capitol building. From June 21-27, nine Jesuit students had the opportunity to attend Boys State, the most Tigers ever to participate. The members of the Class of '22 who were delegates at Boys State last month were: Ashton Buchanan, Dakota Colangelo, Ryan Finster, Paul Gray, Max Harden, Will Iler, Ezra Moros, Connor Patchen, and Baylen Young.
The delegates, who came from all around the state of Florida, took classes on the history of the state, law procedures, and legislative action. Then they created a 'mock state,' which has actual state-level government positions, such as governor of the state, senators, and judges. There were two political parties, the Federalists and Nationalists, which vie for control of the state, the cities, and the chambers of congress. Delegates desiring to be elected for these positions had to give a speech highlighting why they were the best candidate for the job, with the citizens voting for them first in the party primary and then the general election against the other party candidate.
The classes taught us things such as how to write a bill, the basics of law, the court system in Florida, parliamentary procedure, and Florida political history. The participants filled many roles, including as politicians, chaplains, and journalists, who documented everything by creating a news video, daily newspaper, and yearbook. We experienced different types of leadership that could be utilized in the separate branches of government on all scales, from the city to the state to the national level. Some of the positions required more specialization, such as being a Florida Supreme Court Justice or a Representative in the Florida House. All of the positions provided invaluable experience and leadership training.
Many of Florida's top political figures attended Boys State this summer and engaged the participants, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, and Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey.
At the end of the week, there was a large award ceremony at the Tucker Civic Center, where all the boys dressed in suits and gathered to hear the awarding of scholarships and top honors, from being a Chaplain or Supreme Court Justice to being the "Smartest City." The top individual award for being the best delegates included a nomination for Boys Nation. Two boys from every state in America are chosen from the ranks at Boys State to represent their state on the national level in Washington D.C. as U.S. Senators for Boys Nation. One of these two delegates chosen for Florida Boys Nation was Max Harden! Max will travel to Washington D.C. from July 23-21 (right after he returns from the mission trip in Jasper, Ga.) and represent the state of Florida. While there, Max will tour the U.S. Capitol, the White House, and even meet President Joe Biden!
During the week, the delegates lived with the others in their city and forged strong friendships. Many who attended Boys State anticipated a grinding week of academics and politics, however everyone found it was much more rewarding and diverse. Some cities focused on academics and grades, while others focused on working together to get as many of their boys from their city into state government. Everybody attends Boys State for their own reasons, and everyone gets a different takeaway that is valuable to them. Throughout the week, the personal experiences change and evolve. The boys grow closer every day and are able to relate with each other more and more, eventually becoming good friends. The Boys State experience introduced us to an exclusive brotherhood that we will be a part of for our entire lives. The positive feelings about the entire experience were evident in the sadness when it was over, on the way home, when newfound friends are split up and bused off to every corner of the state, connected now by the internet.
Max Harden '22 (second from left) was one of just two Boys State participants chosen for Boys Nation