In its 83rd year, the American Legion’s Mountaineer Boys State has more than 200 West Virginia rising high school seniors who are learning political decision making this week.
Boys State replicates the judicial, legislative and executive branches of state government. The young elected leaders traveled to the State Capitol in Charleston Thursday, to meet with their real counterparts.
Will Behrens thought he’d run for a Supreme Court seat, then decided to go big or go home. Elected governor, Behrens – from Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg – said back home he and his friends don’t really talk about issues. He said at Boys State, people were voicing new concerns and perspectives.
“Talking about things like infrastructure, and the expensive cost of medicines like insulin,” Behrens said. “Along with the stigmatization around getting rehab for drug problems. It’s things like that I may never have even thought of.”
Elected Secretary of State, Berkeley County and Spring Mills High rising senior Samuel Stotler was put into the Nationalist Party. He said one of its pillars was renewable energy. Stotler led the stand for nuclear energy, deciding that by far, it’s the cleanest source.
“I actually just came from the Naval Academy summer seminar session last week,” Stotler said. “We actually spoke to their nuclear professor and he explained to us how this was, hands down, the easiest and most efficient and renewable source that we could possibly have.”
Behrens said being 17 years old is tough when it comes to taking action on political issues.
“We’re in an awkward spot, because we can’t vote and we can’t run for elected positions,” Behrens said. “So that’s why Boys State is a really important opportunity. Because all of these thoughts and opinions that we’ve been keeping for all this time, we can finally kind of put those into action.”
Stotler said discussing different viewpoints at a young age is teaching him what all governments need right now: compromise.
“We’re so polarized and nobody’s willing to give in, to stretch their point of view,” Stotler said. “Compromise is direly important to move forward and progress in society.”
The 2022 Mountaineer Boys State continues through the week at Jackson’s Mill in Lewis County.