More than 700 students from Boys State and Girls State organizations convened in a lively joint historic session at Worcester State College on Tuesday, June 17. Massachusetts’ Boys and Girls State programs have existed separately for over 65 years and this week marked the first time they met jointly for an event.
For over 65 years, the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary have annually hosted Boys and Girls State Programs in each of the United States. Boys and Girls State events in Massachusetts feature one-week leadership conferences, where high school juniors from all over the Commonwealth learn the principles of the American Government system by running a mock state government of their own.
Loud chants of “Lar-ry, Lar-ry,” were heard as Lawrence DiCara, from Boys state 1966, greeted the crowd from the podium. He recalled the tremendous differences facing this year’s class from both Boys State and Girls State.
“I grew up in a time when jobs were separated by gender,” he said. “My mother was a Boston School teacher and was forced to retire when she got married. There were no women in President Johnson’s cabinet.”
He called on the high school juniors gathered as they prepared to begin their one-week sessions to do better. “We’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t mean we’ve come far enough,” he said.
Girls State Director Bonnie Sladeski agreed. “I am very honored to be part of this historic event and we look forward to more joint events,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray reminded the crowd that Worcester has an interesting history in this regard. “The city was the hub of the suffragist movement and Francis Perkins from Worcester served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor,” he said. “She worked so hard to make Social Security, Workers’ Compensation and the Minimum Wage a reality. She would be proud to know that this historic event was taking place in her hometown.”
He also thanked the college. “Worcester State College is one of the jewels in the State College System,” he said.
RoAnn Costin, a successful Boston businesswoman and philanthropist, and former Girls State participant who served as president of Girls Nation in 1969, urged the group to put their experience to good use.
“Your generation can bring about great change,” she said. “Take the time to learn, to participate and to care.”
She also pledged to work to help raise funds for the foundation to support scholarships for the event. Foundation Director Andrew Gallagher—and 1999 Boys State alum—announced a $500,000 fundraising goal. He also noted that 81 students attending the event were supported by scholarships.
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