The crowds have seemed younger over the last week at Weber State University as students throughout the region gathered for the annual Boys State.
According to the Weber State University Boys State’s webpage, “The American Legion Boys State program is the country’s premiere summer youth camp designed to develop leadership and promote civic responsibility in young men.”
Weber State University, more specifically the Walker Institute, has played host to this educational camp every summer for juniors in high school throughout the state.
“The purpose of the American Legion Boys State is to supplement high school civics instruction,” Executive Director of Boys State Ken Hoyal said. “We look at it as an opportunity for the students to gain an enhanced exposure to public service.”
Hundreds of students come from around the state for this week of speakers, mock elections and instruction on legislation and government.
“Public service officials come and talk and have interchange with the students from around the state,” Hoyal added.
Some of the speakers for this week include Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Rep. Rob Bishop, Clearfield City Mayor Mark Shepherd, Judge Thomas L. Kay and several other veterans, leaders and representatives from public service institutions throughout the state.
One such veteran, Casey Kunimura, who served in WWII with the all Japanese-American Combat Unit 442 in Europe, is one of the last remaining original Boys State advisors.
“The purpose of Boys State initially was to get together these young lads and give them an opportunity to study and understand our form of government and how it’s built,” Kunimura said.
During WWII, Kunimura went from incarceration in an internment camp for Japanese Americans to becoming a decorated combat veteran.
“Right or wrong, it’s my country,” Kunimura said, and these passionate, patriotic feelings are the ones he and the other veterans with the American legion wish to instill in the students at Boys State. “If we can somehow transfer some of this knowledge, concern for and love of our country to these young kids, it’s a plus,” Kunimura continued.
During Boys State, the students have a rigorous schedule of learning and interacting with the systems of government.
Through this hands-on experience, the boys’ knowledge of public service and civic activities increases. Throughout the week, they work together on drafting laws and new legislation, electing officials and running for offices.
“Every one of these kids is encouraged to seek a position, and in doing so, they have to go through the process of campaigning, speeches and so forth,” Kunimura said.
They debate, campaign, speak and negotiate all this week, and in recompense for their hard work, they gain three credit hours and a better understanding of the processes that go into creating and running our government.
“The American Legion established this program years ago to get these kids interested in our form of government,” Kunimura said of the experience. “And by doing so, they become more involved in their country.”