Billed as “Iowa’s Premiere Civic Education Program,” American Legion Hawkeye Boys State is a week-long program that provides real-life training in citizenship and democracy. The program, which dates back to the 1930s, is designed for young men who have completed their junior year of high school and have completed a selection process that includes recommendations from school officials and members of the local American Legion Post.

La Porte City’s Austin Timmer first learned of Boys State in the fall of 2016. By the time the new year had rolled around, he had completed the necessary application process and was ready to begin preparing for the event, which was held in June at Iowa National Guard Camp Dodge near Des Moines.

From the very first page, the Hawkeye Boys State Handbook established clear and lofty expectations for the approximately 500 young men who would participate in the 2017 Boys State program:

“You are attending American Legion Hawkeye Boys State on the recommendation of your school officials and members of The American Legion Post in your community. Uphold the confidence placed in you. Conduct yourself in a manner to reflect credit not only upon yourself, but your school and community as well. Being selected to attend American Legion Hawkeye Boys State is an honor that should not be taken lightly.”   

It was advice Timmer took to heart, who certainly made the most of his experience during the 78th staging of Boys State in Iowa. Last week, he joined members of American Legion Post #207 in La Porte City to make a report of his experience to the organization that made his trip to Des Moines possible.

Simply stated, Boys State is a simulation of the political process that determines how things get done in a democracy. For six days, each participant in the program becomes a resident of one fictitious state that is divided into four counties. Within those counties are 12 cities. Timmer was one of 31 citizens who resided in Tillman City.

With so much to do and so little time to do it, each day at Boys State was a full one that started with a flag raising ceremony at 6:15 AM and concluded with lights out at 11 PM. During the 17 hours in between, each day was filled with activities related to establishing and maintaining a government for the simulated society that had been created. Individuals seeking an elected office, for example, had to develop and carry out their campaigns. Elections were held, and once the votes had been tabulated, the newly elected public servants were responsible for carrying the duties associated with their office.

At Boys State, Timmer was a member of the Federalist Party and the chairperson of his county convention, overseeing the process that helped determined the nominees for such positions as county sheriff and members of the Board of Supervisors. Timmer also campaigned successfully for the office of City Treasurer, a position that required him to create a budget and meet with the county treasurer to make necessary requests for funding.

While at Boys State, Timmer’s time was not limited solely to the work of government. He was also one of fifty musicians who comprised the band, where his skills as the only clarinet player helped him earn the Outstanding Band Member Award. For his efforts at Boys State, he was also awarded a $500 college scholarship.

For 78 years, Boys State has offered a unique, hands-on program that educates and celebrates the nation’s form of government:“The American Legion continues to sponsor and to conduct American Legion Boys State in the belief that young citizens who are familiar with the operation of our system of government will be better prepared to uphold its ideals and maintain it for future generations.” At the conclusion of his presentation to the group of La Porte City veterans last week, Austin Timmer had words of thanks for them on two fronts- first for their service to the nation and second for their support of his experience at Boys State. The veterans responded with a hearty round of applause that conveyed the sincere appreciation they had for how well their Legion Post and community were represented at Boys State.

Austin Timmer is the son of Mike and Janan Timmer of La Porte City. For additional information about Boys State, logon to