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Hagerstown teen says it's good to be governor

August 01, 2010|By HEATHER LOWERY

Steven Wang, 17, of Hagerstown has just been elected governor.

That is, governor of the 2010 Maryland Boys State Program.

"Boys State was founded decades ago and the goal is to train the next generation of American leaders, focusing on citizenship, and government. It provides an opportunity to learn and understand the principles of government," said Steven, who will be a senior at North Hagerstown High School this fall.

The title of governor is the highest office a Boys State citizen can hold. The positions are elected by all participants at Boys State.

"It's a really long process. Part of the goals of Boys State are to experience our political freedom through voting and elections," Steven said.

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The Maryland Boys State Program is part of The American Legion, which provides high school students with educational programs of government instruction.

"It teaches young leaders how to make decisions with reason," Steven said.

According to Steven, the policies are strict and disciplined.

"It's run in a military format. Our counselors are from the American Legion, they are veterans," he said.

Wang says Boys Staters would wake up at 4:45 a.m. every morning, make their beds military-style and continue with their day.

"The format is more to teach you about responsibilities, I'm not saying that to scare anyone, but we did have to respond with 'sir,' and would have to do push-ups for looking around if we were at attention," he explained.

How did Steven make it through the program?

"You need teamwork because if you don't use teamwork, you won't survive it. You make really great friendships afterwords," he said with a laugh.

Boys State was created in 1935 to oppose the Young Pioneer Camps, which promoted the Fascist Party.

Currently, the Boys State Program allows participants to become actively involved in local, county and state government.

Maryland Boys State is an annual program, held at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., for a week in June.

According to Wang, each day is filled with exercises and lectures from speakers, who feature officials from various parts of the government, from the office of the attorney general, special agents from the FBI, representatives from the banking system, and a variety of attorneys and other executives.

"At the end of the week we got to take a tour of the State House in Annapolis, and that was a lot of fun," Wang said.

Even though the Boys State program is centered around politics, Steven does not have all of his eggs in that basket.

"Politics is definitely an option, but I'm interested in business," he said.

Being governor for Maryland Boys State does not hold Steven to any obligations, but he does plan to share information about the program.

"I do want to act as a spokesman for Boys State," he said. "And next year I do want to get the word out. I am definitely going to tell the incoming juniors."

To be eligible, a youth must be a male who has completed his junior year of high school, but has not yet entered his senior year of high school. Past participants are not eligible. An application is available at http://www.mdlegion.org/boysstate.htm .

"It's 100 percent free and sponsored by your legion post. If you do apply and show interest, they will accept you," Steven said.

Steven also said male students do not have to be interested in the military to join the Maryland Boys State program.

"Its main aim is to teach about American politics and freedom, so that we can become better citizens," he said.

Editor's note: This story was edited Aug. 2 to correct information about the founding of Boys State.

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