Teens learn rules of government

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 24, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
Neegleah Reeves said though he lives just three minutes from the 72nd Tar Heel Boys State camp at Catawba College, he doesn’t want to go home.
Reeves is one of 283 rising high school seniors graduating today from the American Legion sponsored camp, which has been hosted by Catawba College for the last 11 years. It teaches students about how city, county and state government works.
Christopher Byrd, the program instructional coordinator, said the camp differs from public school education in that they place students into roles they would otherwise just read about.
“The mission of this camp is to teach young men democracy and the proper ways to get involved with their government,” Byrd said. “It’s a learn-by-doing experience. We want them to walk away from here with the ability to say, ‘I know how to hold that office. I know parliamentary procedure.’ We’re teaching them while they’re learning how to do it.”
The program is designed to reflect the government structure of North Carolina and consists of two parties — nationalists and federalists. Agencies, departments and political offices that serve North Carolianians also exist.
Byrd said many students come to the camp with little knowledge of the government system, but after the weeklong camp — progress is evident.
“A lot of these guy when they come in, they don’t understand the political system. By the end of the week we give them a better understanding of what to expect if they do decided to get involved in the government.”
Reeves, a North Rowan High School student and Salisbury resident, said he was nervous prior to the camp, but that he felt like everybody at the program was family.
“It’s really an exciting thing. I was thinking it was going to be fun. It was the (most fun) thing I’ve ever been to,” Reeves said. “We got to know each other quickly.”
Reeves, who served in the program’s House of Representatives, said he enjoyed learning how bills are approved.
“I was in the House of Representatives getting bills, writing bills and making sure all bills were passed,” Reeves said. “It was really a fun process how we make the bill.”
Reeves also spoke highly of the camp’s effectiveness.
“It’s really a good process,” Reeves said. “It really teaches us most of the ways we learn (about) government right now.”
Sen. Andrew Brock and North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robert Edmunds Jr. spoke earlier this week at the program. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton was scheduled to speak Friday, but he had to cancel.
Derwin Dubose, the outreach coordinator for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, spoke instead.
Dubose spoke about the budget, politics and perceptions can vary, said Quon Rogers, an Ayden-Grifton High School from Ayden student. “It stimulated our minds to know if this was something we really wanted to do and got us geared for the future at the same time.”
Thurnis Haley, a Hickory High School student, said the camp has prepared him for real world politics.
“We’ve taken part in a lot of court activities. They’ve shown us how the system works in North Carolina,” Haley said. “We’ve made many bills. It’s prepared us for the real world so we know what will actually happen.”
The program’s most prestigious title, the governor, was awarded to Rogers after his fervent campaign effort.
“I guess my fellow delegates saw me as an all around person. I did not force them to vote for me with signs, I shook the hands and opened doors — which I still do now — I told them what my plans and strategy were,” Rogers said. “At this Catawba Tar Heel Boys State, we do have two parties — the nationalists and federalists — so I did see it fit to appeal to both sides.”
Rogers said he joined the program after his school counselors recommended him for it.
“The experience that I’ve had here is learning to work with a diverse group of people, be an all-around person. Learning government is the biggest thing that I’ve learned,” Rogers said. “I’ve learned how different things work within the city. The thing I like about this program is that you don’t just learn about the state. First you start with the city, the county and then the state. So I’ve learned all three processes and I’m really amazed by it.”
Rogers said he’s enjoyed networking with other passionate seniors and hopes to stay in touch with them.
“This experience has definitely prepared me for the future because I wanted to see what it would be like to be the actual governor or to be the president one day,” Rogers said. “Through this experience, it’s provided me a chance and an opportunity to network with other people and in life you never know what opportunities may present themselves so by meeting my fellow delegates I never know when I may need them for something.