Dedication personified: the sights and sounds of New York Boys State

Roosevelt County, one of the counties that comprise the New York Boys State program, has a tradition of thanking and honoring longtime staff members by signing a Boys State T-shirt and presenting it to the staffer.

This summer, it was Chuck Osterhoudt’s turn. He’s served on the New York Boys State staff for 33 years, even after moving to Tennessee.

He also serves on Tennessee Boys State’s staff and this year volunteered at Kentucky Boys State as well.

That’s a lot of summer weeks to give up, but it’s something Osterhoudt plans to continue to do.

“I do it for you. That’s why I’m here,” he told Roosevelt County upon receiving his signed shirt.

“A lot of the counselors, they come back year after year after year,” said Department Commander Tim Collmer, who also serves as Roosevelt County’s counselor. “(Chuck) sees the value of this program, and what it helps to shape lives of young men, and with Girls State, young women.”


‘You would have had to drag me out of here’

Collmer almost didn’t make it to Boys State this year — at least, not in the role he’s accustomed to.

Part of the responsibilities as department commander is also serving as president of the New York Boys State board of directors. Some thought that would be too much for Collmer to take on if he was also serving as county counselor.

“They told me two years ago, when they knew I was in the running for department commander, they told me I couldn’t come back as a Boys State counselor, and I go, ‘Why?’ And they said, ‘Well, you’re going to be department commander,’ and I said, ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’ So last year they asked me, ‘Are you coming back as a Boys State counselor?’ ‘Yes, I am, because I think it’s that important.’ You would have had to drag me out of here if they told me I wasn’t coming back,” he said.

“I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to come back this year, not only being department commander but as the president of the board. The boys, they’ve seen me around, it doesn’t make any difference to them.”


A different kind of talent

Like many Boys State programs, New York has had a talent show for the Boys Staters in the past.

But last year, leadership came up with a change, replacing the talent show with a version of The American Legion oratorical contest.

Acknowledging the time constraints that come with being at Boys State, the rules for the contest were somewhat different than the national competition. The contestants, one from each of Boys State’s 10 counties, were allowed to use notes during their speeches, for instance.

But the contest served as a reminder to the Boys Staters what they’re capable of — and capable of achieving, when they were told about the scholarship opportunities available at the post, department and national levels.


Stick to the plan

Nolan Reinhardt came into New York Boys State with a plan to run for governor. He even had business cards touting his campaign.

“I did a little planning, but I definitely at the beginning of the week, I was having some serious doubts. I definitely considered dropping out at some point. I was like, ‘I’m so tired, I don’t know if I really want to go up on stage and do another speech.’ But I think in the end, it just got fun in the end, in that we were able to go up on stage and debate ideals in front of a crowd of people, and just say, ‘Hey, who do you think is the most qualified? Let’s take these issues and let’s get answers on them,’” Reinhardt said.

That worked out well for Reinhardt, who ended up being elected governor of the 2024 session.

“It’s been long, it’s been a little stressful, but I think it’s been fun overall,” he said.


Boys Nation

Boys Nation

At Boys State / Nation, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments.

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