Miami University, popular youth camp make partnership official

Buckeye Boys State — one of Ohio’s most popular summer youth camps — has now officially found its new home at Miami University after a contract signing Oct. 8 on the campus.

MORE: 1,200 teens, their families and the economic impact on Oxford

The board of trustees voted June 16 to sign a five-year contract to move the annual eight-day program to Miami from Bowling Green State University, where it has been held since 1978. The program is sponsored by the American Legion.

Principal signers of the new contract were new Miami University President Gregory Crawford and Buckeye Boys State Director Jerry White.

Crawford thanked the American Legion for bringing the program to Miami and told them he has been getting compliments for the university’s hosting the annual June program.

“I’ve been president for 93 days and I’m glad to take credit for it, but it was done before I came here,” Crawford said. “Thanks go to (former) President (David) Hodge and Randi Thomas for doing this.”

Thomas is Miami’s Director of Institutional Relations and a Buckeye Boys State alumnus. He credits the program with getting him started on the work he does today. He said in an interview in June everyone in the program runs for an office, which means half will lose.

“I was one who lost. I believe I learned more about myself and government and how you can have an impact without having a title,” he said then. “Those lessons have served me well to this day.”

Buckeye Boys State is sponsored by the Ohio American Legion, the largest veterans organization in Ohio. It is an eight-day hands-on experience in the operation of the democratic form of government, the organization of political parties and the relationship of one to the other in shaping Ohio government. At Buckeye Boys State, boys learn about city, county and state government through a nonpartisan objective educational approach.

Crawford said the program resonates with Miami because it brings many of the brightest high school students in the state to the campus and he said those are students Miami wants to recruit. He said the university encourages experiential learning, which the Buckeye Boys State program does, and it is a chance to show off the campus program to those high school students.

It is also appropriate, the president said, because Miami has alumni who have gone off to work in state and national government.

Founded in 1936, Buckeye Boys State is the largest Boys State program in the nation with an attendance of more than 1,200 high school students heading into their senior year annually. It represents nearly 600 Ohio high schools, several online high schools and the home-schooled community.

The move from Bowling Green came after the BBS board was unable to reach agreement on a new five-year contract and they turned to Miami, which had been lobbying to host the program for a couple years.

“The word ’thanks’ is not strong enough to convey to so many in the Bowling Green and Wood County community and those before them who have done so much to support Buckeye Boys State since 1978,” Director White said in a statement in June.

At the contract signing at Miami, White noted that Buckeye Boys State was held at Miami 70 years ago for one year, 1946, but was moved after that. He said he has not reviewed minutes from the meetings in those years, but believes the change was made after one year because of the influx of GIs back from World War II flooding to college campuses.

“That is pure speculation. This has been a long time coming. We were in negotiations for six months. This is the beginning of a partnership that started last fall,” he said, adding that there was a team visit to the campus to look at facilities. “It was very positive to a person. Planning will now begin on the 2017 program. Response from the university, city and county has been that they not only want to host, but to help.”

Among those on hand for the occasion was Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott who said he had been approached by Thomas last year about contributing to a video the university was doing to introduce the BBS committee to the community.

Thomas made reference to that in his remarks.

“The university, with the city and the county is excited about this. We look forward to June 2017,” Thomas said. “The city of Oxford has been one of our strongest partners. I called the city manager and asked him about a video. He said, ‘Can we do it now?’ ”

Since 1936, Buckeye Boys State has been conducted annually, with the exception of 1945, when World War II restrictions forced a suspension of activities, and 1952, when a flood prohibited the use of the site at the time. Buckeye Boys State has had many homes since its beginning: 1936 – 1941, Ohio State Fairgrounds; 1942 – 1943, Ohio Wesleyan University; 1944, Otterbein College; 1946, Miami University; 1947 – 1949, Ohio Wesleyan University; 1950 – 1958, Camp Perry; 1959 – 1970, Ohio University; 1971 – 1974, Ashland College; 1975 – 1977, Ohio University; 1978 – 2016, Bowling Green State University.

More than 90,000 individuals have experienced the Buckeye Boys’ State since it started in 1936.

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