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High school seniors gear up for Boys' State election

by Gary A. Harki

STAFF WRITER

JACKSON'S MILL -- It was caucus time at the American Legion Mountaineer Boys' State at WVU Jackson's Mill Tuesday.

The high school students were in the midst of an integral part of the Boys' State program, which sets up its own student-run government.

The seniors from around the state will run Jackson's Mill as its own state today through Saturday.

Nationalist and Federalists rallied their parties in preparation for Tuesday's election of "state-wide" offices.

Federalists listened to speeches from the likes of Lincoln "Bologna" Moloney, who was running for Attorney General and Jack "Who Cann" Cann, the party's candidate for Secretary of State.

"The program itself is a tool of leadership," said Robert L. Wines, operations director of Boys' State. "We are teaching the men of tomorrow."

The West Virginia Boys' State program, which started in 1936, teaches high school seniors about state government.

Clarence Walton is the current director of Boys' State and has been involved with the American Legion program for 16 years.

"We are the largest user of Jackson's Mill," Walton said. "We have been here 67 years and we use every bit of it."

The program requires 80 volunteer staff for an entire week, Wines said.

"People take a week of vacation for this," Wines said. "We have some staff members who have been here 40 years, there are many who have been here between 15 and 30 years."

As the caucuses continue, several students step outside.

"Today and yesterday is just getting ready (to run Boys' State), tomorrow is when we will really be in office," said Donovan Godwin, a student from Buckhannon-Upshur High School. "It has been fun. I have liked everyone I have met here."

Liberty High School student Camden Clutter has not minded the assemblies that have taken up a good portion of the time so far. But he is interested in moving on with the rest of the week.

"You don't get much sleep here, but you wake up and somehow find energy," Clutter said. "It has been interesting to hear the candidates and others speak."

Boys' State even has its own court and money system, Wines said.

"It is a fully functioning government," said Wines, a camper at Boys' State himself in 1986. "We have added a Family Law Master system this year, as well."

Wines believes that one of the biggest benefits from the program is the patriotism that it instills in the students.

"I like it a lot better than I thought I would," said Bridgeport High School student Grant Burton. "I have met a lot of new people."