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Local youth attends 2019 AL Boys’ State

Photo by Shari Harris
Eli Keeney’s experiences at Boys’ State taught him about the amount of work involved in operating city and county governments.

By Shari Harris
This year, twelve LHS juniors were accepted to attend American Legion Boys’ State and American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls’ State in Warrensburg. One junior was Eli Keeney, who shared his experiences there.
Boys’ State and Girls’ State offer an opportunity for students to experience governing and citizenship while operating their own city. Keeney reports the experience began on June 15, as soon as he arrived. After registering, he was given a key card (a debit card) and assigned to a city. Ellis Complex on the University of Central Missouri Campus was full, with an estimated 960 boys in attendance. Each floor was a city, with 16 cities in all, and eight counties. Sixty boys lived in each city.
Keeney was a member of Gambrel, Bacon County, on the fourth floor of South Hall. The city’s first order of business was to elect a mayor then other city officials were elected or appointed by the mayor. Every evening, all members of the city met, and they established the city ordinances. A county meeting was also held during the week. Political parties had to be formed from the ground up to establish candidates to run for offices, including for state government elections which were held on Thursday.
In addition to the government aspect of the program, students also attended classes. Schools in Law Enforcement, Commerce, Public Administration, Campaigning, Journalism and Law were available. Keeney attended the Law Enforcement School and his “job” at Boys’ State was to serve as a fireman and deputy sheriff. Students could earn two to three college credit hours in Political Science.
Sports were also a component of the week. There was track, ultimate Frisbee, two leagues of basketball, softball, Quizbowl, rowing, and volleyball to keep the students involved. Keeney participated in track, ultimate Frisbee and softball. He was proud that his city was named Most Athletic.
Keeney reports the week was extremely humbling for him. He was surrounded by the smartest and most athletic students from all across the state. Keeney expressed surprise at how much work it takes to run everything in government. The 18-hour day schedules they kept from June 15 through June 22 were packed with activities and learning experiences. Keeney met a few people he knew of prior to the program and met a friend of a friend. He made a couple of new contacts through the week with whom he has remained in touch. LHS students Isaac Haden and Dakota Decker also attended Boys’ State but were in different cities. Keeney reports he rarely saw either one due to the number of boys attending and the pace of their schedules.
Keeney stated, “I think it’s an amazing program. I think I may come back as a counselor next year.” Keeney explained that each city had three counselors to help guide the students.
Regarding the opportunity extended him by the American Legion and its many generous donors, Keeney said, “I want to thank them. That was an amazing opportunity that they granted for me.”


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