The American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county, and state government, Boys State was founded in 1935. The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a separate, but similar program for young women called Girls State.


Virginia Boys State is a one week program held on campus at Radford University, while Virginia Girls State is held at the same time at Longwood University. At both programs, participants (“citizens”) learn the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county, and state governments. Operated by “citizens” elected to various offices, these program activities include legislative sessions, court proceeding, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses, and recreational programs.


Among the highlights of the VA Boys State program is a “College Day” which attracts recruiters from over 50 colleges and universities (to include military service academies) to promote their respective institute of higher education.


Local Legion Posts and Auxiliary Units select high school juniors to attend their programs, during June prior to the start of their Senior Year in high school. Tuition is paid for by the sponsoring Post or Unit, which includes room and board on campus. There are also scholarship opportunities for outstanding “citizens.” Two “citizens” from each program are selected to represent Virginia at Boys/Girls Nation – a similar program focused on the Federal government held in the Washington, DC area.


The American Legion National Oratorical Contest exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students. Since 1938 the program has presented participants with an academic speaking challenge that teaches important leadership qualities, the history of our nation’s laws, the ability to think and speak clearly, and an understanding of the duties, responsibilities, rights, and privileges of American citizenship.


Young orators earn some of the most generous college scholarships available to high school students. Over $203,500 in scholarships can be awarded each year. The overall national contest winner gets a $25,000 scholarship. Second place takes home $22,000. Those who advance past the first round receive an additional $2,000 scholarship. The American Legion awards the scholarships, which can be used at any college or university in the United States.


All high school students under the age of 20 are eligible to participate. Competition begins at the local Post level and advances to a state competition. One State winner advances to the national contest in Indianapolis, Indiana where the top three finishers are determined.


Speaking subjects must be on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution, with some emphasis on the duties and obligations of citizens to our form of government. Speeches are eight to 10 minutes long: three to five minute speeches on an assigned topic also are part of the contest.


The American Legion Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Program is sponsored by local American Legion Posts in cooperation with the Virginia State Police at the State Police Academy in Richmond for one week in June.


The program provides first-hand experiences and insight into the operations of law enforcement agencies and also affords these highly motivated young people an opportunity to consider law enforcement as a potential career choice. Recruitment of high school students, both male and female, representing all communities and backgrounds in the state, is one goal of the program. Once these young people have been selected to attend the program, the law enforcement community is challenged to present a program that will instill an understanding, appreciation, and respect for law enforcement professionals and their techniques.


The program is available to students who have completed their Junior year of high school and are in good academic standing. Students should be of good moral character and possess a desire to learn more about the law enforcement profession. Their high school should recommend students who meet these qualification to local American Legion Posts who are sponsoring the program.