A trip to Washington, D.C, a possible tour of the White House, a chance to meet the President of the United States and an opportunity to spend a week learning more about our country and how the federal government operates: this is a once in a lifetime experience that you won’t want to pass up.  Girls and Boys Nation is an extension of the American Legion’s Girls and Boys State programs that are held across the Nation each summer.  Some famous graduates of Girls/Boys Nation include: Bill Gates, Phil Jackson (coach of NBA Chicago and LA teams), Michael Jordan, George Pataki (former Governor of NY), Thomas Plaskett (Former President of American, Continental and Pan Am Airlines), and Ann Richards (first female governor or Texas). 

When did Boys and Girls Nation Start?

In 1946, almost ten years after the first Boys State was held, the first Boys Nation convened on the campus of American University in Washington, DC.  Following the program, the American Legion adopted the event as an official youth activity.  The following year, Girls Nation was founded by the American Legion Auxiliary.  Each year the program is held in Washington, D.C. during the summer and two “senators” from each state are chosen at their respective Girls and Boys State programs to represent their state.

Can I apply for Girls or Boys Nation?

The short answer is no.  In order to participate in Girls/Boys Nation, you’ll have to have already attended the Girls/Boys State programs that are held in the summer following your junior year. If you did not participate in Girls/Boys State, you cannot apply to participate in Girls/Boys Nation.

If you did participate in Girls/Boys State, there is a nomination and election process you’ll need to go through to be in the running to be chosen as a delegate at Girls/Boys Nation.

Although selection of Girls/Boys Nation delegates vary at each state program, most delegates are selected or elected after a nomination process while at the Girls/Boys State programs.   If you are nominated, it is likely that you will have to prepare and present a speech on an important topic facing our nation.  If you are fortunate enough to be chosen, there will be paperwork that needs to be filled out that allows you to participate in the program, but there is no formal application process.

Does Girls Nation/Boys Nation cost anything?

The cost of the program is covered by each state’s American Legion or American Legion Auxiliary post.  The program covers travel, lodging and meal expenses during the program.

Do I need to know anything about government to attend?

Since you have already attended your Boys or Girls State program, you will have sufficient understanding of the function of government prior to your attendance at Girls/Boys Nation to fully immerse yourself in the program.  Many think that you must be planning a career in government to attend, but this is simply not true.  For many, the program is an opportunity to learn more about how the federal government functions, similar to what you learned at a local, county and state level at Girls/Boys State.  Most students in attendance leave the week with a greater appreciation for our government as well as a better understanding of their responsibilities as a U.S. citizen.

What Do I do at Girls/Boys Nation?

Girls/Boys Nation is an intensive one-week program held in Washington, D.C.  Although the program is similar to Boys/Girls State, Girls/Boys Nation will give you a much better understanding of how the federal government functions. You will be broken into the Nationalist (“Nats”) party and the Federalist (“Feds”) political parties.  Although the two parties don’t reflect the two major political parties in our present system, the division will allow for the participants to learn how the system works.  In the program, you will caucus at the beginning of the session and break into committees to hear bills submitted by the program delegates while learning proper procedures for handling bills. You will have the opportunity to run for office of President, Vice President, Supreme Court Justice and many more.

Is the program strictly learning about the government?

Although the purpose of the program is to educate the delegates about the functions of the government and responsibilities as U.S. citizens, there is so much to it than just that.  Special field trips include a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and other famous landmarks in Washington.  A visit to the White House is planned as well as monument tours throughout the city, and a visit to Capitol Hill to meet your respective senators and legislators.  The week also includes visits by guest speakers such as Nesse Godin, a Holocaust survivor who spoke to the Girls Nation participants in 2016.  Although the facility is now closed, in 2011, the Girls/Boys Nation participates took a trip to the Walter Reed Medical Center which provided medical care to over 775,000 injured veterans and their families per year. While there, participants were able to speak to injured veterans and they learned about the Wounded Warrior Project that still exists today.

In 2016, the senators were given a tour of the Pentagon and experienced “Twilight Tattoo” on Ft. Meyer.  Twilight Tattoo is an hour-long live-action military pageant that gives people an insight into American history through live music, reenactments and the drum and fife corps drill team.  Each year, there is a service component involved in the program that will no doubt be one of your favorite memories of the week.

At the end of the week-long adventure, there is a banquet and a candle lighting ceremony.  The banquet is an opportunity to gather with your newfound friends one last time before returning to your home state.  The candle lighting ceremony can be emotional as it focuses on remembering the Veterans, absent loved ones and giving thanks for the week.  Most students leave with a greater appreciation for our nation, veteran’s and our duties as U.S. citizens, but all will have an experience that will not be forgotten.

How do I learn more about this and other American Legion opportunities?

There are many ways to learn about the various programs sponsored by the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, but a great place to start is with your local post.  If you don’t have a post near you, you can visit the American Legion or American Legion Auxiliary websites.

If you’d like to learn about various other summer programs, check out our blog.  Here at Collegevine, we want to help you discover opportunities that will best fit your needs as well as your busy lives.

Tammy Goerger

Tammy Goerger

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Tammy Goerger is a long-time educator and geo-circle lead for the Joyce Ivy Foundation. She is the mother of three children who attended Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, and she has a passion for helping students achieve their dreams and aspirations. She has been a resource for students and parents about the application process, financial aid, and scholarships. She enjoys sharing her love for music with others and volunteers as an EMT on her local ambulance squad. She strives to teach her students about the importance of community service, as well as the importance of living with an attitude of gratitude.
Tammy Goerger