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Boys State adds experiences to weeklong program

Just because Tar Heel Boys State has been around for 76 years, doesn’t mean the program isn’t continuously growing and developing.

Boys State is an annual weeklong program that gives young men who are rising high school juniors an immersive and hands-on opportunity to learn about local, regional and state government.

Campers are called citizens, and are organized into cities and counties.

This year, two new features – a bank and a daily newspaper – were added to Boys State.

Program Coordinator Christopher Byrd said they wanted to “try to add a little bit of the realistic side of campaigning to the program.”

The bank was used to keep track of campaign money for the citizens who wished to run for office. In order to file to run for state office, they had to pay a filing fee, just like in real life.

“The guys who wanted to be on the state ballot had to raise money from constituents,” he said.

Adding the bank teaches citizens financial responsibility, Byrd said.

“You can’t just raise your hand and say, ‘I be want to be governor,’” he added.

“The bank for sure has helped in our state election process,” he said.

A citizen from each city served as a branch manager at the bank.

The newspaper also contributed to a more realistic campaigning environment. Candidates were able to use their campaign funding to purchase campaign ads each day.

The newspaper wasn’t just limited to campaign ads, however. its seven member staff filled it with original stories, weather reports, election results and political cartoons each day.

“It gave everyone the opportunity to track and know what’s going on in sessions they weren’t in,” Byrd said. “The newspaper added another layer of communication between the cities.”

He added the citizens came up with so much original content, they actually had to go through and choose what they were going to use each day.

This year, 249 young men from across the state gathered at Catawba College for Boys State, including a dozen from Rowan County.

Amara Morris, a student at West Rowan High School, said when he first found out about Boys State, he “didn’t really want to come.”

After talking to his family and coach, however, he decided to give it a try, especially since he was told it would look good on his college applications.

Morris changed his mind about the program once he got there, though.

“It’s been a really fun experience,” he said.

Morris was elected to the House of Representatives, where he’s helping pass legislation about a variety of topics. Laws vary from fun to serious issues such as legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage. He even was elected as House chaplain.

“Even though it’s really stressful in there, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

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