Pocahontas County Students Get Up Close And Personal With State Government
Charleston, WV – Eighth grade students from Pocahontas and 12 other West Virginia counties are in the state capital this week to get a firsthand look at the way the legislative and judicial branches work. It’s part of the 8th Grade Youth & Government seminars hosted by Camp Horseshoe and the Ohio-West Virginia YMCA. Lois Nelson, Executive Director of Camp Horseshoe provides details about the program.
“The Youth & Government seminars take place in Charleston,” says Nelson. “Part of the program is held at one of the local hotels and then the rest of the program is at the capital itself. The students have the opportunity to see how a bill becomes a law, and the opportunity to see the Supreme Court justice facility.”
“They have a tour of the capital building, they have a tour of the Governor’s mansion; they also have the opportunity it meet their senator’s and delegates, to see an actual House or Senate session. So it’s a three day session of a lot of work at the capital learning about government and how to become citizens of the State of West Virginia.”
She says they’ll have a chance to discuss issues important to the state with their representatives during dinner, and issues important to themselves, such as education planning, internet safety and cyber bullying. First started by the West Virginia State Bar Association, Nelson says the program has been in place for about 30 years. The Ohio-West Virginia YMCA has been running the program for the last three years, split into three or four sessions to accommodate kids from all over the state. This week in addition to kids from Green Bank and Marlinton Middle schools, the capital will host kids from Barbour, Berkeley, Fayette, Greenbrier, Mason, Pendleton, Preston, Raleigh, Taylor, Tyler, Webster and Wetzel Counties.
“We notified the Social studies coordinators for all the counties and their school systems, and then those social studies coordinators in turn notify the social studies teachers in the schools or the West Virginia history teachers in the schools,” says Nelson. “Each county has its own way of finding students.”
She says the experience is one that few students will forget.
“Some of the students haven’t ever been to Charleston before at all,” she says. “They’re just in awe of the capital, in awe of the Governor’s mansion, and to have adults sit down and talk to them and ask their opinion on things that are going on in the legislature; it truly opens their eyes up to the whole experience and they’re amazed.”
The three day tour is very structured with chaperone directed activities for the students when they are not at the Capital complex.
“We do have a YMCA staff member who’s there to coordinate the program, just to make sure that everybody’s in the places where they’re supposed to be,” says Nelson. “But there’s a lot of parents, teachers and chaperones that also help with that.”
Besides the tours, Tom Tinder of the West Virginia State Bar Foundation will take them through a mock legislature. A ttorneys from Jackson and Kelly will take the students through a mock trial where they’ll participate as both witnesses and jurors. Nelson says it’s all designed to make West Virginia history and governing more than just something they read about in a textbook.
“They learn a lot of West Virginia history in school, and then this-it brings it to life,” she says. “In the bottom of the West Virginia Cultural Center [in Charleston] is a Pathway to Our History’ where you can literally walk through different exhibits about the miners, logging, coal, everything; and they were just amazed that they walk through this exhibit and learn so much.”
The seminars run through Wednesday, February 29th.