My CA Boys State ExperienceJune 24, 2022
Boys State is a program held by the American Legion that attempts to replicate state governments, and usually occurs at every state. With over 1000 boys at Sac State University, delegates were divided into counties, cities, and political parties at random. This program lasts for one week, and students from regions far away from the Sacramento area arrive via bus. I’ve heard that roommate selection happens at random, and usually comes from a region that differs from yours (ie: North CA w/ South CA roommate). I attended this program from June 17 - June 24, 2022.
Each city has their own sets of counselors, who are adult volunteers who have been to Boys State in the past or was somewhat related to it. These people are what honestly matter more than the people in your group - they can make or break the experience. These counselors are meant to guide you along the Boys State process, whether that’s giving general advice or trying to be elected/appointed (by your fellow peers) into city, county, or statewide positions. The positions pretty much represent a real state structure, with the state level having important key figures such as the Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, and others; there are also county and city levels which include mayor, sheriff, city councilman, etc. The counties represent the dorm hall that you stay at, while the city is what section of the dorm you live in.
While I’m sure schedules vary from year to year, our day looked a bit something like getting breakfast, meeting with a group of people (depending on your position), eating lunch, having a unified event, having recreation time, going to dinner, and being able to spend more time with your city again. I’ve heard past stories of people meeting governors alongside other high elected officials.
While people have different goals for Boys State, the main goal is to either be elected into a high ranking position such as Governor, or impress everyone around you that you are nominated for Boys Nation, an all-paid program where they pick two Boys State candidates from each state to meet at DC and mimic the government through representing Congress. They have many perks such as being able to meet the current president, but that’s a field that I do not have enough expertise to talk in.
The counselors are great sources of advice. Honestly, from I definitely learned more this one week than any time spent in a political science class. They’ve convinced me that politics isn’t for me, but also that people as citizens carry a heavy burden of voting for the officials that fit their needs.
Another pro is the (mostly) freedom you get. While typically discouraged, students can attend the events that they want - and I did this once after skipping out on an event where I didn’t feel so well. The freedom, however, also allows for everyone to feel involved. Even if you do not have an official position, no one feels alone as there’s always an activity to be in, and being a citizen kept my experience stress free. I sat into “city council meetings” where matters/ordinances were discussed and what people could pass. After the first two days, Boys State becomes autonomous, and you see developments such as businesses, trials, among other things forming naturally. The freedom is a bit of a trap in a financial sense that you can only buy goods from the Boys State Store or the nearby market without going too far (more on that later). Can’t complain though, the program is mostly free except for the various non-necessary pre-package donations as well as food/any materials you obtain on campus.
My last pro is its pretty similar to getting a glimpse of the college experience. You get to see college students on a campus, eat at a dining hall, live in a dorm, and explore what Sac State has to offer. As long as you stay within campus bounds, it’s allowed. If you’re reading this and you are at Boys State in CA, I highly recommend visiting the student bookstore to pick up some Sac State swag, or other goods that you can find cheaper. It might be a bit far, but it’s well worth the visit.
However, a program is not without its flaws. The food is a hit or miss, but that’s to be expected with dining hall food; this is more of a nitpick. However, one of my major gripes with the program is with the younger (~college young), more “passionate” counselors. These people compared to their more experienced counterparts tend to be a bit more aggressive in their policy enforcement in a way that makes them look like they’re suffering from a power struggle. From making up rules, being clueless about certain policy directions, to being overaggressive, the list goes on and on.
While I’m sure my story is of no interest to the average reader, my one experience of a disrespectful counselor turned my very good opinion of the program sideways. It was quite hypocritical, and let’s just say there were more pressing matters at the time; oh well, I definitely should’ve gotten that counselor’s name. Would’ve given the program a solid 4, but that final night experience left a bittersweet taste.
While I do appreciate the invitation from my school for being their delegate, I cannot recommend this if you have a summer program that matches your major lined up already. For the other people, Boys State is a great way to be informed about politics - even if you don’t plan to vote. One week prepared me heavily for my AP Gov class.
That being said, if the counselors are there to detrify your experience, the time that you give up when you could be working or in dual enrollment is too heavy of a price to give. It’s not as selective and prestigious as most people think compared to the average Bay Area student. Better to pick up a summer internship at a startup or get some university-level research in. The advice of the counselors is definitely irreplaceable, but there are always alternate ways to getting those connections.
This is the first year that the program is being held in person since the pandemic, however, I believe this is the last year they’re holding Boys State as it will be transitioned to a co-ed format. Rated 3/5.
Drake City's council meeting.