HATTIESBURG, MS (THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI) – For the first time in its lengthy history, the elite American Legion Boys State Program will be held on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi.
Southern Miss officials joined American Legion representatives in signing a three-year agreement during a news conference Thursday, April 1 at the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. The 2010 Boys State convention is set for May 30-June 5.
"For many years we've hosted Girls State here at Southern Miss. This completes the circle," said Southern Miss President Martha Saunders. "This partnership with Boys State will prove mutually beneficial to everyone involved and will assist in creating the next generation of state leaders."
Established in 1939, Boys State gives young men who have just completed their junior year of high school a better understanding of how elections and state government work in Mississippi. This year those young Mississippians will reap an extra reward in the form of three semester hours of college credit that may be applied to any college or university in the state.
Dr. Denise von Herrmann, dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Southern Miss, pointed out that the Boys State delegates would attend faculty-led lectures and functions comparable to an American Government 101 course at the university.
"We're very excited about this new development in the Boys State program," said von Herrmann. "At the conclusion of the convention, the delegates will be given a written assignment to complete which will graded by members of the faculty. The credit hours will then be approved accordingly."
Approximately 350 young men are selected to participate in Boys State each year based upon their leadership and character. During the convention, attendees comprise the mythical state of Magnolia where they are divided into groups of cities and counties. Delegates gain first-hand knowledge of the election process by campaigning for one of the many offices on the state, county and municipal levels. They work on bills in their "legislature" and economic development projects in their "city", all the while competing against other delegates and cities.
Shane Aguirre, Boys State director for Mississippi, said the new partnership with Southern Miss represents a perfect fit for both parties. "We are very excited about coming here this year. Southern Miss has such first-class facilities and the City of Hattiesburg is the ideal destination," said Aguirre. "It's a wonderful feeling to know we'll be coming here over the next three years and, hopefully, beyond."
For more information about the American Legion Boys State Program in Mississippi visit www.msboysstate.com