Family tradition lives on at Boys State

There wasn’t much question about whether Patrick Ryan would attend Massachusetts Boys State, assuming he had the opportunity.

After all, Boys State is something of a family tradition. His father, Bob, attended the program and has served as a volunteer legal counselor for years, and Patrick’s great-grandfather, Hayes Kennedy, co-founded the program in Illinois in 1935.

“I found out about Boys State at a pretty young age,” Patrick Ryan said. “ I was always very interested in it; I knew my great-grandfather had been one of the two major co-founders. Since I found out about it, I’ve always had an interest in going.”

While Ryan knew the basics of the program, a weeklong government simulation for young men between their junior and senior years of high school, he was impressed by the extracurriculars such as the recreational sports and band programs at Massachusetts Boys State.

“I feel like that really enhanced our experience in being able to work together and really feel like we were teammates,” said Ryan, who played the trumpet in the band at Boys State this past spring.

The band is a tradition at many Boys State programs, stemming from its inclusion in the first state program.

“They decided right in the beginning they would have a band, and they told boys if they wanted to bring an instrument, they could work up the band,” said Helen Kennedy Ryan, Patrick’s grandmother and daughter of Hayes Kennedy.

While some of Patrick Ryan’s cousins — Fiona Whalen and Anika Peddinghaus, the granddaughters of Helen’s brother Jim — have attended Girls State, he’s the first of Hayes Kennedy’s great-grandsons to attend a Boys State program. He doesn’t expect to be the last, though, as his younger brother, Tom, already plans to attend when he’s eligible.

“I was really proud to be able to carry (the tradition) on for my family,” Ryan said.

Considering his lineage, Ryan said he didn’t feel any pressure during his time at Boys State.

“Unfortunately, I wanted to run for (an official) position, but before I knew when Boys State was and that I was being nominated for the program, I signed up for a summer trip (to Quebec) with a (French) class and it conflicted with like the last day and a half of Boys State, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking a role I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill,” he said.

Ryan has seen firsthand how the values cherished by his great-grandfather and other Legion family members have been ingrained in programs like Boys State and Boy Scouts — Ryan has participated in both, having completed his Eagle Scout project, the improvement of a large town soccer equipment shed.

“I found that a lot of the values that were taught through Boy Scouts happen to be a lot of the same values Boys State taught me,” he said. “I find it really cool and very heartening that my values seem to be similar to the values of my great-grandfather that he instilled into the Boys State program.

“There’s definitely a great sense of pride in knowing that one of my family members took action to do what he thought was right in educating other people, young people, about our government, something that he felt strongly about, because he was in the military, so he did serve and put his life on the line for the country. … I feel really proud that he was able to take a stand and say, this is what I think is right, and then follow through with that with an action.”

And Ryan plans to continue that tradition, as he’s applied to serve on the Massachusetts Boys State staff next year.

“I hope I do get to be on that staff. I do plan to follow in my father’s footsteps and be a counselor, donate my time to Boys State, because I feel that it is a program that really helped me and helps other people.”