Massachusetts Boys and Girls State participants go through several sections of the program together, including convocations and classes. Photo By Steve B. Brooks

Boys and Girls State ... together

Larry DiCara came to Massachusetts Boys State as a participant in 1966. The following year, he returned as a counselor. And every year since, DiCara has returned to the program, this year serving as an advisor to The American Legion Department of Massachusetts Boys State Committee.

During his 45 years with the program, DiCara - a Harvard graduate and prominent attorney in Boston - has seen many changes. But the most recent change in Massachusetts - the integration of Boys and Girls State in the education portion of the program - might be the most important DiCara has seen.

Last year, Girls State participants began attending some of the educational classes that have been taught to the Boys State participants for years. That integration continued with even more involvement this year at Stonehill College, including a joint Boys/Girls State convocation during the second full day of the program.

"The girls going through the program have told us that they want more involvement with the academic side," said DiCara, the dean of political science for Boys State this year. "When I went to Harvard, the ratio of males to females was 4-1. Now it's 50-50. The world is changing. These girls are smart, and they want more opportunities. I have three daughters of my own, and I think this is a pretty good deal."

The classes taught during the program include governmental organization and budgeting, the electoral process, getting into college and the Bill of Rights. Economics and law courses also are available. This is in addition to the normal Massachusetts Boys and Girls State activities of electing senators and other officials, studying state and local government, setting up fictional municipalities and dealing with issues that face town and city governments, and hearing from an array of guest speakers."I think we have the best academic program of any

Boys State program out there," DiCara said. "I can't prove that, and I'm not sure how you'd judge that. But we have had many graduates go on to serve in public offices. Two of the six members of our state budget committee are Boys State graduates. We work very hard so they can take advantage of the program as much as possible."

Bonnie Sladeski, Massachusetts' immediate past department president, is in her fourth year as director of Girls State. She says a changing society made it necessary to alter the Girls State program.

"Girls nowadays are interested in learning the same things boys are," Sladeski said. "But our Boys State has a staff of 40-75 people. We were lucky to have 30, and it was an all-volunteer staff. We don't have the lawyers or economists on staff. We did everything that involved government, but now they're getting classes in economics and law taught by professional people."

And the feedback has been positive. "We hand out a survey at the end of each year, and last year was the first year we started some of the integration," Sladeski said. "Participants thought it was fabulous. They enjoyed it, and they loved the classes. Most of the kids were very receptive to the entire program because they know it benefits them. We have the cream of the crop here - these are all A- and B-students - and they're getting a new opportunity here."

Legionnaire Mark Avis, a past national vice commander, has chaired Massachusetts' Boys State Committee since 2001. "We felt we needed to bring this program into the 21st century," he said. "Women are in the same professions as men. They're doctors, politicians, lawyers - everyone is on the same plane. We needed to treat (Girls State participants) in the same way. I think it's a phenomenal idea, and I'm looking forward to watching the program continue to grow."


  1. Our American Legion Post #44 in Michigan and it's Auxiliary Unit 44 and SAL Unit 44 operate as team players and consider ourselves a Legion Family. A couple years ago we decided to work on the Boys and Girls State programs together with our whole Legion Family participating. Since we are a very long distance from the location where the programs are held in our state we hold an annual Boys and Girls State Reception/Orientation program where the prior years delegates share their experiences and give tips to the delegates who will attend this year. We are further expanding the scope of our local orientation program to include special guests who are government officials and/or supportive staff. We have a wonderful program and it saves money combining our efforts. Last year we started talking about getting a list together of former Boys and Girls State Delegates including their accomplishments. Maybe similar to the list I have regarding prominent Boys State and Nation participants. This point brings me to the subject of the Legion Youth Alumni Association and a suggestion that Girls State be considered to be added to the participation list. I know the programs are separate but Girls State deserves to be included in the youth alumni association too. Girls who participate are youth and considering the importance and relevance of all youth programs, please do not leave these girls out they are very likely to be Veterans someday. Thank you for any consideration of my comments. Patty Stevens ALA Unit 44 Michigan, Girls State Chairman
  2. I am proud to be a sal member because of my fathers duty to our country.I am a dual member because of my honorable service to my country
  3. Connecticut was the first Boys State to be held at the same time and place as Girls State and I remember going to Boys Nation and discussing this situtation with the Senators from the other states. All of us felt that it was the way it should be. Today, almost six decades later, I believe that the possibility of merging the two programs is worth pursuing on the state and national level. It would most certainly place the memebers in a more realistic position of the real world. My hat is off to those considering changing the system -- it show that Legion members are always thinking of ways to improve outstanding programs.
  4. It was great to attend several of the events during the week and it was interesting to note the the participants want even more intergration in the future. The reasoning behind most of the comments was that it is a more realistic professional environment having the participants together for most of the programs, including the government projects. After all, they ask, where would you find such a segregrated workplace in the "real" world?
  5. I like the idea for many reasons but one that jumps out is. The fact that New York Boys state allows for over 1200 boys and Girls state can only do about 250. Making it much more competitive and limiting too. Girls can now serve in combat areas and there are more and more FEMALE VETERANS. Shouldnt our women be treated as equally as the Men? This is America and more female leaders would be good for our country. I support anything that would bring Girls State numbers up to the number of Boys State participants.
  6. As a father of a daughter I strongly agree that these programs should be consolidated in each state and at National. I commend the Massachusetts for equalizing this great educational retreat for our daughters and sons. Stephen B Vice Commander Katy, Texas Post 164 who proudly sent 17 juniors to Boys State this month
  7. I’m very impress to all the ladies that they can do a lot of things just like were the Men’s doing. We have the freedom for what is right to express our feelings and emotion and no one can stop us.
  8. This is a fantastic idea! Girls are interested in the same careers and subjects as boys are. As noted previously they are Doctors, Lawyers and CEO's of companies. As we also see more and more females entering the military and leaving their families at home too. With our membership and participation in our programs down it only makes sense financially to combine the two. Not to mention the expense of looking for 2 different facilities to house each, the cost all around has to be a savings. And I believe we are known as a family with the Legion, Auxiliary and SAL. Thanks MASS for setting the example I certainly hope other states will follow suit. Just my opinion.
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