A prominent leader emerged from Boys Nation Tuesday night. Darius Thomas, of Phenix City, Ala., was elected President of The American Legion Boys Nation at Marymount University for the 2017 program. During the election, which was run as a mock presidential campaign, Thomas won against the delegate from Florida, Blake Barclay.

“I felt that running for President [of Boys Nation] would be a good way to say thank you to my American Legion post, but I’m a pretty ambitious person and that was also a reason for me running for President,” said Thomas. “I’m so thankful to win.”

Boys Nation, a signature program of the nation’s largest veterans’ service organization, provides an intensive week-long, hands-on education in American politics and the legislative system for a select group of high school students each year.

“None of the things that I’ve done before, in my past, add up to have as much of an effect that Boys State and Boys Nation has had in my life,” said Thomas. “Boys State has helped me find my way forward and Boys Nation has helped me find my purpose. These two things, over the course of one summer, have made this the best span of my life so far and I’m so thankful.”

The incoming senior at Central High School, Thomas plans on attending the University of Alabama and pursuing a career as a politician.

Two representatives from each of the 49 Boys States represent their home state as a senator. The senators caucus at the beginning of the session, organize into committees and conduct hearings on bills, allowing delegates to learn the proper legislative procedures according to the U.S. Senate. Activities include mock party conventions, legislative elections, debates, speeches and visits to Capitol Hill and other historical sites. Delegates will also visit the offices of their state’s respective members of Congress and present bills of their own creation.

Since Boys Nation began in 1946, a number of its graduates have been elected to public office, including presidents, congressmen, state governors and state legislators.