Buckeye Boys State using social media to make program more accessible
Buckeye Boys State Counselor Shaun Loftin, President Dave Ridenour and Counselor Brian Le. Photo provided.

Buckeye Boys State using social media to make program more accessible

In his role managing social media for Buckeye Boys State, Brian Le sees an opportunity to address a challenge he experienced when he was a Boys State delegate in 2014.

“I think that social media actually allows people to not only message out what the program is about, but for parents and us to have a little more transparency into what this program is,” said Le, a Buckeye Boys State counselor since 2016 who started managing the program’s social media in 2021.

Le acknowledged his experience as a Buckeye Boys State delegate in 2014 “was a little blind.”

“I had no idea what I was getting into. And then even after the first day, I didn’t really know what was happening, because there were other delegates here who already came with campaign materials and are dressed up because their brothers or their fathers or their grandfathers had actually been to the program already, and they got a little bit of a heads up on what’s happening,” he said. “It was a jarring, but exhilarating, exciting experience. … It’s also one of those truly formative experiences in a really important time for your development.”

While acknowledging the impact Boys Staters can have by returning to their sponsoring Legion posts and high schools to talk about their experience, Le notes that social media provides another avenue to spread the word on what the program is all about.

“This is the one and only opportunity you’re going to have to experience this. And how do you translate that to kids just like myself back at that time who don’t know what this is, who may not have an interest in government or public service or patriotism or any of these other ideals of the program? How do you convince them that kind of program is still needed in a society that has kind of turned away from the idea of talking to each other?” Le said.

“… I hate to fall back on this one, but our slogan is, it’s a week that shapes a lifetime. You are never going to know the way that Buckeye Boys State will affect your life… but I can tell you that there are demonstrated benchmarks for those who attend The American Legion Buckeye Boys State that set you on a path to success that your peers who don’t attend will not have the opportunity to access,” Le added.

Le said he “was an average student of American government at best” when he attended Ohio’s Boys State program. But he’s now a deputy legislative director at With Honor Action, and credits that week at Bowling Green State University a decade ago for shaping where he is today.

“Boys State got me interested in American history, American politics … the idea that regardless of what kind of political leanings you might have, you can speak across the aisle as human beings,” Le said. “… Politics and government were not on my mind when I went to the program, but the seeds of it were definitely laid by Buckeye Boys State.”

And it’s brought Le and others into “a tapestry of over 100,000 alumni.”

“I get it, we’re trying to convince high school juniors to come to a camp when government and politics aren’t necessarily the zeitgeist right now. Government is the mode, but it’s not the message. The message is about leadership development, about being able to work with people who view differently and think differently than you, to be with people, to break bread with people, to spend a week with people you otherwise may have never met in your life. … If we can play some small part in reconnecting the tissue between people with different ideologies, different backgrounds, different hometowns, different faiths and different political beliefs, then I think we can play some small role that the leaders of tomorrow will be better equipped to do this as well.”