Montana becomes first state to combine American Legion Boys and Girls State

Student presenting a bill
Posted at 3:12 PM, Jun 21, 2024

HELENA — This week, roughly 80 high school students across Montana are attending the American Legion Boys and Girls State at Fort Harrison.

"Coming to this program is really important because now I've learned how important the government is, all the aspects, and how it all works together," said Jadyn Kitzmann, a student from Billings who is attending the program.

Students House of Representatives

She campaigned and was elected as the girl's governor.

Kitzmann said, "I hung up lots of posters with candy and stuff, kind of bribing but not really bribing."

Student speaking before student representatives

Lane Chivers from Kalispell was elected to be the boy's governor.

He says the program will help him after graduating from high school.

"Going into the real world, we're going to have to vote; we're going to have to understand how our government works and what we are voting for. Going into a vote blind can have major consequences," said Chivers.

Typically, the state is held at the capital building, but it had to be at Fort Harrison this year due to construction.

State shirts

Students attend from Sunday to Saturday and work from about 7:30 AM to 9:30 PM.

American Legion State Director Joshua Clement said, "This is a hands-on environment for them to actually get to see what it really is like to move a bunch of bills, what it's like to have a debate, what it's like to build city ordinances and go through legal procedures all the way up to the appellant and supreme court levels. They all get to do it, not just read about it."

This year, Montana is becoming the first state to combine the American Legion Girls and Boys State.

Students debating

Typically, boys and girls attend separate sessions.

"The key leaders in our government are actually both male and female. It's not just one way or the other. We're kind of excited in Montana that we are those people that like to be champions and lean forward," said Clement.

Students listening to presentation

Chivers enjoyed getting to work with both genders.

He said, "This is a great experience working across genders throughout the state. I think the only thing that would make this a lot better is to have a lot more participants."

Two boys and two girls will be selected from the program to attend the American Legion Nationals in Washington, D.C., in July.