New Jersey Boys State Foundation website (click for homepage)
Program Overview

Program Summary and Goals:

Over 60,000 of New Jersey's finest high school students have participated in the Jersey Boys State program since its inception in 1946. Established by the American Legion Department of New Jersey to give young New Jerseyans a better understanding of our state and local government, Jersey Boys State has distinguished itself as one of our nation's finest youth programs. Jersey Boys State is a mythical fifty-first state organized and administered by an all-volunteer staff to educate youth in the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. The program endeavors to provide a foundation for understanding self-government, a rationale approach toward the solution of public policy questions, and a live faith in the ideals and processes of democracy. The program of training and instruction includes extending each Statesman's acquaintance with the background of democratic principles and ideals and expanding his knowledge of the underlying principles of government organization.

Innovative Teaching Methods:

The Jersey Boys State program employs active and collaborative learning methods to teach the basic principles of democracy and government. Statesmen "learn by doing," creating and implementing tactics and strategy as they engage in debates, negotiate agreements, build consensus and implement public policy.

While the staff and guest speakers educate and actively engage the statesmen on principles of democracy and governance, Boys State is actually "governed" by the statesmen themselves. Upon arrival, each statesmen is designated as a member of either the National Party or the Federal Party. Approximately 50 citizens live in each residence hall area, and form their own "city." Each city is paired with a "sister city" to form counties of approximately 100 citizens. Each city and county randomly receives a set of public policy issues drawn from actual cities and towns. As the week progresses, statesmen form platforms for their parties at the local, county, and state levels to address the difficult public policy issues they are confronted with. The statesmen are also encouraged to incorporate issues from their own home towns, backgrounds and general current events. They manage campaigns, hold organized debates, elect their leaders, then commence the process of implementing their ideas through drafting, debating, and enacting legislation. The week culminates in the election of the Jersey Boys State Governor and Lieutenant Governor, who then appoint a cabinet and work with the state legislature to sign bills into law. Finally, two Boys Nation Senators are elected; these young men will represent the state of New Jersey at the American Legion's week-long Boys Nation program in Washington, D.C.

Distinguished Speaker Series:

To supplement the active and collaborative learning process, Boys State offers statesmen its "Distinguished Speaker Series." A diverse array of state and local elected leaders enrich the Boys State curriculum with interactive lectures and panel discussions. Highlights typically include discussions with both the Republican and the Democratic State Party Chairs, U.S. Senators, a legislative panel of four to six State Senators and Assemblymen, and the New Jersey Governor. The Speaker Series includes question and answer dialogues, giving the leaders of tomorrow an opportunity to explore how government functions in practice.

Career seminars comprise the second prong of the Distinguished Speaker Series. Each day statesmen may select from a wide range of career seminars featuring practitioners with backgrounds in public administration, academia, business, law, technology, journalism, the armed services, theater and medicine. These interactive seminars allow statesmen to connect with practitioners and gain exposure to a broad range of potential career paths.

Shaping the Future:

The selection process focuses on students with the highest qualifications in character, leadership, and a demonstrated commitment to bettering themselves and their communities. The expectaion is that statesmen will not only actively make a contribution during the Boys State program, but in their schools and communities when they return. Those who have participated in the Boys State program consistently come away with a sense of pride in our form of government and in themselves. Jersey Boys State was designed to make an investment in our greatest resource - the youth of America. One statesman at a time, the Jersey Boys State program is making a difference that will shape the future of individuals and communities for years to come.


© 1999-2024, New Jersey Boys State Foundation, All rights reserved.
For more information about American Legion Jersey Boys State, click here.