The 63rd annual session of West Virginia Boys State will begin this weekend with the arrival of the more than 400 expected participants on Sunday. The weeklong event will take place at Jackson's Mill and last until June 17.
"The point of the program is to teach good government through participation," says Randall Kocsis, Boys State staff member and legal adviser.
The program will include boys entering their senior year of high school. Participants must be in the top quarter of their male high school class and have a gradepoint average of 2.75 or higher. They are recommended by their school and approved by the American Legion.
The event is sponsored by the American Legion Department of West Virginia Inc. The cost for each boy to attend Boys State is $150, which will be covered by contributions made by civic organizations and businesses.
The staff of more than 50 will include volunteers to oversee the week's activities. Lawyers, judges, members of the media, teachers and members of law enforcement, many of whom are former Boys State citizens, will fill staff positions.
According to Kocsis, West Virginia Boys State is meant to mirror actual government and other aspects of civic life in the state. Citizens, or participants, in Boys State can follow five basic career paths during their stay: Political, legal, law enforcement, journalistic or financial.
Kocsis says the journalism and financial programs are new to West Virginia Boys State. Citizens, for the first time, will be selected to run a newspaper office at the event. They will communicate with state newspapers and television stations and relay stories occurring at Boys State.
Some citizens will also be selected to run the first Boys State Bank. All participants will receive $1,000 in Boys State money. This money will be used by citizens to take the program's bar exam and purchase items such as campaign material.
Kocsis hopes this introduction of money will teach the politicians of the program about campaign contributions. Each citizen at Boys State is allowed to contribute $50 to the campaign fund to each candidate for each office he is running for.
Citizens taking the political road during the week will be running for offices at the state, county and city levels. These candidates will campaign, make speeches and take part in debates from Sunday until Tuesday, when the general election will be held. An inauguration will follow on Wednesday, after which a formal review parade that is to include Gov. Cecil Underwood will take place. According to Kocsis, Underwood is among several dignitaries to speak to the citizens during the week.
Court trials will take place Wednesday and Thursday and will showcase those who decided to take the legal route at Boys State and become judges and lawyers. The Harrison County Bar Association will oversee these trials.
For those taking part in the Boys State law enforcement program, a police academy will be held from Sunday to Wednesday, after which the new officers will begin their duties. These boys will be trained by state police officers and conservation officers from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.
Other activities at the event will include the College and Career Fair, where state colleges, the state police, the Department of Natural Resources, the FBI, the United States Armed Services and other groups will send representatives to provide information to the citizens about what they have to offer.
On Friday, the Boys State Olympics will be held and each cabin will form a team to compete in various contests. Also on Friday, a talent show will be held. At the end of the week, two citizens will be selected to attend Boys Nation, which is an eight-day program that will take place near Washington, D.C.