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Boys State event designed to plant seed, nurture understanding of democratic process in participants

Staff reporter

Dylan Taylor

Before he attended Utah Boys State last summer, Dylan Taylor thought the information released at the program would be over his head. But he indicates now that he was wrong.

"Everyone there was just like me," notes the Carbon High senior. "I had a lot of fun and made some great friends."

He reflects on the week he spent at Weber State University knowing that other young men will be going through the same thing this summer, a time he will be using to prepare himself before he enters the University of Utah.

The statewide program, sponsored annually by the American Legion, has been rolling along for more than 60 years. Up until the late 1970s , the event was presented at Utah State University. About the same time, local interest started to wain in a program that was quite competitive, with a number of high school juniors vying to attend the event.

"We have had a hard time finding kids to apply the last few years," pointed out Wayne Scherschel, who is in charge of the program in the area. "The local post sponsors two kids locally each year, but lately we have had to round them up rather than they coming to us. Last year, we only had two apply. This year, so far, no one has."

Possibly part of the problem is that young men have to find a way to pay $175 of the $275 fee, either by working for the money or by finding sponsors. The American Legion pays the rest.

At one time, dozens of young men applied to participate in the program.

"It was during that time that people got the impression that the only kids who could go had to be veteran's sons," explained Clark Warren, who also helps with the program. "But it is open to all candidates."

Boys State developed in the 1930s from the concept that youth should be offered a better perspective of the practical operation of government and the part an individual plays in a democracy.

The event represents an educational activity that focuses on youth training in practical citizenship.

Boys State is a leadership action program where qualified male high school juniors take part in a practical government course designed to develop in the young citizens a working knowledge of the structure of government.

"I wasn't that interested in politics, but after I went to Boys State, I realized it's value in our society," states Taylor. "I don't think I would ever go into it, but it sure helped me to understand it better."

Taylor points out that the about 300 particpants from locations across the state are divided into various groups. The members elect leaders and participate in running the groups.

The students are divided into precincts, cities and counties as well as total organization known as Boy's State. The general group also has a judicial branch and a legislative body. Attendees learn about how all the groups function as a united entity.

"We heard an address from Gov. Leavitt and a mayor as well as from others," notes Taylor. "It just made me more politically aware. After seeing what was going on I wanted to get involved. I became a county delegate and was elected sheriff as well."

But the event is not all meetings and seminars. There's fun, too.

"I got to be friends with a lot of people, literally the whole city I lived in," explains Taylor. "I made one friend who attends Hunter High School that I have kept in contact with since."

The chance to go to Weber State gives many young men the chance to live in dorms for a week, participate in organized sports programs and get an idea about what college life is like.

"One of the best things for me was that, when you attend, you can write a few papers about government while at the session and get college credit for it," reveals Taylor. "That was an easy way to pick up some credit that I can use toward graduation at Utah."

The 2003 Utah Boys State event is slated June 9-13. The event will be presented at Weber State. The deadline for the applications is April 1.

Interested young men who are juniors in high school may apply to attend. Legion posts can send up to three individuals. Once the applications are submitted, the candidates are screened by a committee of Legion members to decide who the post will send.

For application information, local residents may contact Scherschel at 472-8203.

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