By Edwin B. Smith
University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi is set to host both Girls and Boys State for the first time ever.
The American Legion-sponsored events will bring hundreds of high school juniors to campus in May and June for a week of activities designed “to develop tomorrow’s informed, responsible citizens.”
While Boys State, slated for May 28-June 3, returns for its seventh year, this is the first time Ole Miss will host Auxiliary Girls State, which takes place June 11-17.
“As an institution with a long legacy of building leaders, we are thrilled to host both Boys State and Girls State on our beautiful campus this summer,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “These impressive young men and women will gain so much as they grow and advance their skills to be the next generation of leaders for Mississippi.
“We are deeply appreciative of our partnerships with the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary.”
The campus community is pleased to host Boys State again and to welcome Girls State, said Bradley Baker, director of the Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union.
“The university has committed to developing our state’s future leaders, and hosting both programs on the Ole Miss campus affirms the commitment to develop not only our own students but the brightest high school students across the state as well,” Baker said. “Given the success we have had hosting Boys State at the university for the past seven years, it was easy to sell how Ole Miss could become a perfect fit for Girls State.”
Between the two events, as many as 1,000 delegates will stay on campus and learn how city, county and state governments function by performing the functions of state and local governments. Each activity is designed to develop their leadership, political skills and understanding of governing and citizenship.
While at Ole Miss, participants will have access to the many resources of the university’s departments and programs.
Speakers slated for Girls State are Shad White, state auditor, and Michael Watson, secretary of state. Girls State coordinator Heather Burleson said the university is a wonderful location for the organization’s 75th Diamond Jubilee.
“Ole Miss and their staff have been so helpful and inviting,” she said. “We knew this was the right choice to make for our program.”
Scheduled speakers for Boys State include White, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr., Attorney General Lynn Fitch, state Sen. Rod Hickman, state Rep. Shane Aguiree and Willie Simmons, transportation commissioner for the state’s central district. The young men will also hear from William Magee, author and director of operations for the William Magee Institute for Student Wellbeing, and Jody Holland, UM assistant professor of public policy leadership.
“We can all give instruction on the process of democracy and state government, but our program places these young men in the position to lead through mock government,” said Milton Robinson, Boys State director. “With these lessons come just as important lessons on how to be an upstanding young man and leader in today’s society.”
Each group will also conduct debates, give speeches and hold elections.
Boys State delegates will also participate in a Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. May 29 at the flagpole in the Circle. The public and local officials are invited to attend.
The gathering is designed to be a virtual 51st state with a constitution, statutes and ordinances constructed by its citizens to govern themselves. Boys State is known as the mythical state of Magnolia. Girls State is known as ALA Magnolia Girls State.
The Illinois American Legion created the program in 1934, and Mississippi’s began in 1938. The program was officially adopted by the national organization in 1945. The goal of the program is to show that democracy needs both an intelligent citizenry and also a moral, honest and impartial administration that is responsive to the will of the people.