|Members Buckeye Boys
State raise hand to heart as the colors are presented at the beginning of an assembly Monday, June 9,
2014, at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
For the 37th year, more than 1,200 high school juniors have flocked to Bowling Green State University
They’ve arrived not for summer classes or a sports camp, or even for a campus tour.
They’re here to learn about becoming more engaged citizens.
"What we hope is that they will have a deeper appreciation for public service," said Gerald
White, director of the American Legion Buckeye Boys State, which began its eight-day run at the
university on Sunday.
"We will guarantee them they’ll leave here with a deeper understanding of how the levels of Ohio
government work than 75 percent of the general population of this state."
The single largest Boys State program in the nation, Buckeye Boys State attracts youth from approximately
500 high schools across Ohio to engage in a microcosm of state government. They elect city, county and
state representatives and officials – including a governor and other administrators – and undertake work
in other endeavors such as debates, political conventions and writing their own newspaper, the Hetuck (a
Native American word for "buckeye"). They even have their own political parties: the
Nationalists and the Federalists.
"We do everything over the course of eight days that you’d see in Ohio government over the course of
a year’s time," said White.
"Everything we do, we do from a non-partisan position."
A.J. Hotaling, a Boys State delegate from North Baltimore, sponsored by American Legion Post 539, said
the event thus far has given him new insight.
"I’ve really gotten how government actually works," he said, noting he was elected to serve as
a city councilman for the week.
"There’s 1,200 of us, and we do accomplish a goal," he said of the collective actions of BBS
Since the inception of the program in 1936, more than 90,000 young men have taken part in BBS, among them
five astronauts, including Wapakoneta native Neil Armstrong, and "a good percentage of the Ohio
General Assembly," said White. The program first came to BGSU in 1978.
"The emphasis about this program is we are not a classroom experience," said White. "These
young men will learn by doing. It’s all hands-on. … We will take them up to a point, and then we stand
back and let the young men run with it."
"It’s just a great learning experience," said Matthew Wagner of Wayne, who attends Elmwood High
School and is a member of the Hetuck staff. He is sponsored by Bradner Legion Post 338.
"I’m very happy with my post of being a reporter on the Hetuck," he said, indicating the job
lets him learn about multiple parts of the program.
He added the learning goes further than education about government – Wagner said Boys State involves
working with people you don’t know to achieve a common aim, something that’s relevant throughout life.
"Public service, or being a public servant, certainly gets a bad rap in many areas," White
said. "It’s like every other profession. You do have some people who abuse their power or don’t
serve their office correctly. But public service is vital to the operation of this country. I don’t care
if it’s a rural one-person post office or a 100-person agency. It’s important that the citizens of the
country, the citizens of the state, are provided good public service by their public servants who are
knowledgeable about what they are doing" and try to do a good job.
"We not only teach that public service is a good thing to do," but also provide the boys with
skills they can take back into their lives.
"The motto of the program is ‘A Week to Shape a Lifetime,’ and we accomplish that in many of these