Boys State staff encouraged to apply to serve at Boys Nation
Americanism Commission Chairman Mark Avis and members of the American Legion Boys Nation staff speak during the Boys State Directors Conference in Indianapolis on Sept. 23, 2023. Photo by Andy Proffet / The American Legion

Boys State staff encouraged to apply to serve at Boys Nation

Senior members of the American Legion Boys Nation staff, along with program director PNC Tom Bock and program coordinator Jeff Bennett, outlined a new staff application that’s in the works during the Boys State Directors Conference last weekend in Indianapolis.

The application form is aimed at creating a database of Legionnaires, Sons of The American Legion and other Boys State staff who would be interested in also volunteering to serve on the Boys Nation staff.

Bennett emphasized to those at the conference that it’s not aimed at filling specific positions; rather, it’s to have information on those who are interested in case there is a staff opening that meets the skills and education of those who apply.

The staff application form is expected to be available on in the next few weeks.

The annual directors conference also afforded the opportunity for several Boys State programs to discuss best practices as Boys States nationwide continue to bounce back from pandemic-related deficits in attendance.

D.L. “Robbie” Robinson, the director of West Virginia’s Mountaineer Boys State, noted that their program takes the initiative to reach out to TV stations and newspapers across the state in order to promote the program.

“TV stations … are always looking for someone to come in and fill time, so you can do that,” Robinson said. “Last year we went to three different TV stations in West Virginia and (talked about the program).”

Robinson said it’s also important to share the word about Boys State at department conventions and conferences, to ensure that the Legion Family knows about the program.

And, “one of the best ways to get boys to your camp is through the boys going back to their school and talking to the lower classes,” Robinson added. “It’s much better coming from them than from some old guy standing behind a podium.”

Oklahoma Boys State chief operating officer Jared Harrison talked about the psychology of recruiting young men to attend the program, notably changing the concept of them volunteering to go to Boys State to them being selected to go to Boys State.

“We’re focusing on a language switch. Instead of ‘who wants to go,’ let’s start identifying the people we want to have go,” Harrison said. “And then you’ll go to them and say, ‘You’ve been selected. You have the opportunity to come to this program. …’

“Just that little verbiage can change everything.”

Harrison also pointed out another selling point to recruit attendees: college scholarship offers. He noted that Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, for instance, offers a four-year, $20,000-per-year scholarship to any accepted applicant who has participated in Boys State and attends Hampden-Sydney.

“I would ask you, ask your universities that you’re at, if you’re at a college campus, especially if you’re getting a scholarship offer (to your attendees), is that something that can be nationwide or in the region to help out the other programs,” Harrison added.