University to Host American Legion Boys State Through 2021

Hundreds of high school juniors come to campus in May to learn about the workings of government

Interim UM Chancellor Larry Sparks (third from right) talks with representatives of American Legion Boys State at the signing of a contract to bring American Legion Boys State to campus for the next three years. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will continue to host American Legion Boys State through 2021, bringing high school juniors to campus for a weeklong event designed “to develop tomorrow’s informed, responsible citizens.”

The university will host American Legion Boys State through 2021. Hundreds of students will stay on campus May 26-June 1 this year to learn how city, county and state governments function through simulating those jobs. They’ll also participate in Memorial Day services and hear from many local, state and federal elected officials. 

“We’re excited to continue our partnership for the next three years with the American Legion and Boys State, which provides outstanding educational and leadership opportunities for future leaders of Mississippi,” interim UM Chancellor Larry Sparks said. “We are honored to host them on our campus and introduce prospective students across the state to terrific experiences while on our campus.”

Hunter Pace, director of Mississippi’s American Legion Boys State, said the group is excited to continue its relationship with Ole Miss. Boys State’s goal is to make sure that every delegate understands the value of civic education, and that they have an opportunity to put that education into practice, he said.

“We believe in the learn-by-doing approach, and for the past three years, Ole Miss has provided an environment in which our program can thrive,” Pace said. “We aim to set the standard of innovation for Mississippi Boys State and other programs around the country.”

The Illinois American Legion created the program in 1934, and Mississippi’s began in 1938. The national organization adopted it 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 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.

Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs, said it’s a privilege to work with Boys State to provide a rewarding opportunity for many of Mississippi’s future leaders.

“It is always a highlight of my summer to meet these impressive young men from across our state,” Hephner LaBanc said. “We take great pride in knowing that we are helping to encourage their leadership and ongoing education.”

The gathering is designed to be a virtual 51st state with a constitution, statutes and ordinances constructed by its citizens to govern themselves. Participants are required to review their knowledge about political workings of state and local government, but they also perform the same duties as real-world officeholders.

“After hosting the Boys State delegates on the Ole Miss campus for the past three years, the university is committed to developing the leaders of tomorrow,” said Bradley Baker, director of the Ole Miss Student Union. “We are grateful to showcase our university to the future leaders of our state and nation over the next three summers.”