On a Saturday night at home, Arcadia High senior Trex Jones came across a documentary called Boys State. Intrigued, Jones watched the film and decided to dig a little deeper; this is how he found out the program is a real thing – a thing he was most interested in.
First convened in August 1946, Boys Nation was built as a national youth program to help young leaders learn about the structure and function of the federal government. The program boasts prominent alums like NBA Coach Phil Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Armstrong, and former president Bill Clinton.
“After I watched the film, I fell in love with the idea of going to this political ‘camp,’” Jones said.
For those in Boys State, the ultimate goal is to become a “senator” who will eventually join the American Legion’s Boys Nation.
Congress created the American Legion in 1919 as a patriotic veteran organization. These days, it is one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. There are over two million members and more than 13,000 posts worldwide.
Jones applied to the local American Legion during his junior year and was accepted to join Arizona’s Boys State. There, he learned from past alums and participated in mock elections for different government positions, essentially learning what it takes to become a state leader.
Candidates for senator are selected based on their specific state procedures, but according to Jones, those who stand out in Boys State Arizona are sent to Boys Nation.
“I won my nomination from my party, so we had a party convention, and everyone rallied against the issue I talked about. They rallied behind me, stood up, cheered and clapped,” Jones said.
After the nomination, he went through multiple interviews and was chosen as an Arizona senator. From there, Jones headed to Washington, D.C. for the week-long American Legion Boys Nation conference.
There, he and the other states’ senators learned the “proper method of handling bills, participated in the political process, including party conventions, and nominated and elected a president and vice president.”
“You meet a bunch of people from all over and learn what they’ve done for the community,” Jones said. “You learn to talk about your political morals without yelling at one another.”
Jones said that being part of Boys Nation taught him that losing is okay and it’s important to voice your opinion. Through debates and conversations, he better understood what it takes to be a country’s leader.
“This program taught me that our country is a beautiful thing,” Jones said. “It’s beautiful because we can voice our opinion, change laws and vote people in that represent what we believe in.”