RADFORD – Four hundred young men, all decked out in traditional white T-shirts and blue shorts, scattered and scurried across the Radford University campus the week of June 19-25, 2022, to learn all about Virginia state and local governments and the roles they can serve as citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
These young men were all part of the weeklong 79th session of the American Legion Boys State of Virginia, a leadership program offered to rising high school seniors who are sponsored by various American Legion posts and are selected based on their academic achievements, leadership ability, civic engagement and citizenship.
This is the ninth year Radford University has hosted Boys State.
“We’re excited to bring students to the campus every year and introduce them to the Radford campus,” Boys State media director Collin Lee said. “The students come from all corners of the state, from Southwest Virginia to Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia and everywhere in between. It’s quite impressive where all these guys are coming from, and this is a great way to introduce them to Radford.”
The longstanding partnership between Radford and Boys State acquaints participants with the university’s modern facilities, services and amenities, its in-demand academic and athletic programs and its engaging faculty, staff and students.
“Radford has been a great partner for us the entire time we have been here,” Lee said. “Radford works with us and provides excellent service for our students. They provide great meals every year and have an excellent staff to help us. Everyone at Radford is super helpful.”
Each day for the “citizens,” as they are referred to throughout the week, began with a 7 a.m. breakfast in Muse Hall. There’s also band and chorus rehearsal for the musically inclined and then the daily flag-raising within the 8 o’clock hour at the Heth Hall flagpoles. They attended religious services at 9 a.m. and then hurried across campus for instructional sessions at 9:40 a.m.
In those sessions, participants learned from leaders from across the commonwealth about the political process through a simulation of Virginia government.
They participated in mock legislative sessions and held elections, court proceedings, and other hands-on activities based on their respective interests, such as band, chorus, athletics, and journalism.
“Boys State is basically an instructional program during which the citizens are learning the workings of Virginia state and local governments,” said Lee, who attended Boys State as a citizen in 2017 and has been involved with the program since. “It is designed to teach them their roles in the community, and it allows them to get involved in learning how to work in state government from the top levels to city and town governments.”
The young men also attended speeches with top leaders in local and state government, including judges, elected representatives and law enforcement officials. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, former Virginia Gov. George Allen, and former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling spoke to the boys on various days throughout the week.
“It is an absolute joy to be here with the future leaders,” Miyares said to the boys after a rousing welcome to the stage from the Boys State band and chorus. “You wouldn’t be where you are now if you weren’t a future leader of the commonwealth. I have no doubt that we have future state delegates or state senators or attorney generals and even governors right here in this room.”
The week wrapped up with a two-hour College Day on Friday in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Representatives from numerous higher education institutions, including Radford University, were there to provide information to the young citizens as they prepared to continue academic pursuits beyond high school.
On Friday evening, the talented Boys State musicians paraded through campus, then held a special musical presentation later that night. Boys State also inducted new members into its hall of fame during a ceremony in the Bondurant Auditorium.
The citizens graduated from Boys State Saturday during a ceremony that included awards for various areas such as parliamentary procedures, athletics, moot court, best reporter, best citizens, and best city, as well as the Dr. George Blume Best Citizen Award.
“It’s been a very packed week, and every day is a full day,” Lee said. “They get up early, and they are definitely tired at night.”