I was one of 560 rising high school seniors selected to go to the 75th annual Boys State convention on the campus of the University of Alabama.
First things first, I was directed to a room full of boys in red shirts. The energy I felt as I walked down the hallway was unlike any other leadership conference I had attended. High-fives and shouts of encouragement greeted me as I made my way to my room with my luggage.
I became a member of the city of Hayes, one of eight cities named after the many men who have influenced Boys State since its first program in 1937.
Mayor, city council member and sheriff are just a few of the positions you can tackle at the citywide level. Why stop there? Governor and lieutenant governor are two of the most notable positions at Boys State, qualifying those officers to move on to the much-coveted Boys Nation program in Washington in July.
Boys State has grown from having a main focus on politics to more than 20 interest groups, from sports to music to (for yours truly) journalism.
Judge Pete Johnson, director of the program for the past 28 years, was the first of about 10 motivational speakers we heard from in just one week. When Judge Johnson told us he had served 50 years on the Boys State staff, I wondered why. As one of the journalists in the mock society of Boys State, I got to ask him myself.
“Look around you,” he said. “Boys State meant a lot to me when I first attended, and it still means just as much to me today.”
As the week progressed, I got to know my fellow delegates. They were from all walks of life — not at all what I anticipated. There were singers, dancers, musicians, journalists, athletes, scholars, class presidents and just plain students. I was surrounded by diversity at any given moment, whether during a general session or just lazing around in our rooms.
Because I was a journalist for my city, I was able to get information on the various branches of our mock government. When visiting the House of Representatives and Senate groups, I felt the same level of energy that I had when I first arrived. Seeing so many teenagers taking something so seriously, ready to go to work in our actual government, gave me hope for the future. Our generation is preparing itself for the day when we’re the ones in charge.
To top it off, my business-interest group got to experience one of the most coveted 100 yards in the entire state of Alabama: Bryant-Denny Stadium. Not only did we get to tour the stadium and the administrative areas behind the scenes, we also got to march out onto the field of one of the best college football teams in history.
The relationships, knowledge and understanding I gained in just one week will follow me for the rest of my life. Boys State has better prepared me for whatever gets thrown my way.
Alex McFry is a rising senior at White Plains High School. In May, he was awarded an honorable mention in C-SPAN’s national 2012 StudentCam competition, for a documentary he made called “Back to the Basics.”