by Brian Jarvis
JACKSON'S MILL -- More than 400 students are learning how state government works during this week's 64th Annual Mountaineer Boys' State at Jackson's Mill.
Bob Wines, operations director, said the convention is a total mock government with an extensive study of city, county and state offices.
"Boys' State is built entirely on participation, and most do participate," said Neil Bolyard, senior counselor in Webster County Lodge. "They also all work things through."
Bolyard, 69, of Morgantown, was a Boys' State resident in 1949. He talked to groups about financial aid for 25 years until he retired in 1997.
The residents work with many counselors who help keep the camp working in an orderly manor. They all play a part in not only the political aspects, but also the law enforcement and financial needs of the mock state.
Throughout the course of the week many guest speakers come to Boys' State to talk to the residents. On Wednesday, Gov. Bob Wise spoke. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Hershal Williams was also present.
Wines said some other speakers include mayors, county sheriffs, prosecuting attorneys and circuit judges.
"They work hands-on with the young men, teaching them the tools to carry on," said Wines.
The camp is composed of two caucuses, the "Federalists" and the "Nationalists." Each party has its own state and county primary elections. Some officials chosen from the county are sheriff and mayor, and on the state level a couple are the House of Delegates and Governor.
Mountaineer Boys' State is composed of West Virginia students entering their senior year of high school who are at or near the top of their class academically. All of the boys who attend Mountaineer Boys' State are sponsored by local civic organizations.
"Boys' State is an educator," said counselor Ronald Gore. "It helps them to gain a sense of respect for themselves and country. They make new friends, some they will keep. These are the future leaders of our country and state."
Gore is a resident of Summers County and has been volunteering as a counselor with Boys' State for four years.
The elections keep many of the residents busy, and most agree that it is a fun part of the experience.
"Campaigning is the best part. I really enjoy competing with my peers," said Chris Owens. "It is so much fun, but I do miss the girls."
Owens, 17, Clarksburg, is running for mayor of his county and House of Delegates.
Boys' State is affiliated with the American Legion. The affiliation teaches the residents country pride and manners around the American flag.
Sessions conclude at 10 a.m. Saturday, said Wines.
Staff writer Brian Jarvis can be reached at 626-1446.