American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. It is a participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state government. American Legion Boys State was founded in 1935 to counter the socialism inspired Young Pioneer Camps. The program was the idea of two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, who organized the first American Legion Boys State at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a separate but similar program for young women called American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.
At American Legion Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, American Legion Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement