A La Jolla High School student who participated recently in the Boys State summer leadership and citizenship program sponsored by the American Legion came away with a greater understanding of - and appreciation for - American government.
Will Peterson was one of more than 900 high school students nationwide to participate in the Boys State program for high school students between their junior and senior years. The program gives them practical experience in politics instructing them in its intricacies.
Peterson was one of three candidates chosen by La Jolla High as a finalist to be selected in the Boys State program. He was picked after being interviewed by a three-judge panel, which included Dr. Herman Froeb of American Legion Post 275.
Peterson said the week-long civics program held in June on the campus of Sacramento State University was an enriching experience harkening back to the American republic’s early days.
“You were assigned to a political party, either a Whig or a Federalist, and the person you roomed with was automatically with the opposing party,” he said. “My position at Boys State was a Superior Court judge.”
Boys State participants are divided into subgroups and given city names before electing mock municipal officials and representatives to mock state legislatures. Participants also elect state officials, governor, lieutenant governor, etc. The Legislature then meets to organize, elect leaders, and to pass bills in a way that is similar to how actual legislatures operate.
“We made our own decisions,” said Peterson. “It gives you a laboratory to learn about government. I just know so much more about the political process and just what it means to actually be a voting citizen and how a democracy actually works.”
As part of the Boys State program, Peterson went to the state capitol in Sacramento where he visited with San Diego legislators in the Senate and Assembly. He is now interning with Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-75).
Boys State also teaches participants about money management as they are given their own currency to cover the cost of running for mock office.
Froeb first got involved with American Legion after his own son was selected for the Boys State program back in the 1980s, becoming an active member and then a post commander. He said it continues to be a productive and humanitarian endeavor.
“We continue to participate in Boys State and other programs, like those for disabled and homeless veterans,” he said.
Boys State has been a program of The American Legion since 1935 when it was organized to counter the fascist-inspired Young Pioneer Camps. American Legion, founded in 1919 by veterans returning from Europe after World War I, is a congressionally chartered mutual-aid veterans organization of the U.S. Armed Forces. The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis and also has offices in Washington D.C. The group has nearly 3 million members in more than 14,000 posts worldwide.
Peterson is being honored for his participation in the Boys State program at a lunch meeting of American Legion Post 275 Thursday, Sept. 17 at 11:30 a.m. at La Jolla Shores Hotel, 8110 Camino del Oro.
Military veterans and other interested parties can get more information about American Legion by calling Post 275 commander Jose King at (619) 572-1022 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.