Three Branson High School students have begun their senior year with a new found appreciation for leadership and the career paths they’ll be taking after graduation after spending a week at The American Legion Boys State this summer.
From June 15 to the 23, students Ben Walworth, Ben McPeak and Joe Jafari were among nearly 1,000 other young student leaders in Missouri participating in the 2019 Boys State on the campus of the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
For Boy State all the attendees are randomly placed into different fictional cities and are eligible to run for various local, county and state government positions.
During his week there, Walworth was made a citizen of Boone City and was chosen to serve as Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Administration.
“Of all the boys that were selected for Boys State, there was about 72 applicants to be on the chamber of commerce leadership board and I was chosen to be one of about nine on that,” said Walworth.
Walworth explained that the entire concept of Boy’s State is to learn more about the state’s political structure and to better understand the government as a whole. On top of his normal everyday duties with the Boone City Chamber, Walworth also attended commerce school while participating in Boys State.
“I decided to do the commerce school, because business is a large interest of mine,” Walworth said. “So I was able to attend that school and learn some from some great business professionals who have lived in this area, have attended Boy’s State and they’re very involved alumni of the program.
“In addition to learning about the overall programs talking about leadership, citizenship, character and civic duty, I learned a lot more about commerce and the interaction business and enterprise have with the public and the government.”
McPeak, who was a member of Blair City, shared that on one day of Boys State he began introducing himself to members of the other cities, which he then used to his advantage to become elected to the position of county representative for Gamble County.
“I discussed policies to better our county and what could get us to model county and our political views as a whole,” said McPeak. “I was in the legislative and executive school, and from there I became a lobbyist. So I was pushing other elected state representatives and senate members for legislation.”
McPeak added that he feels he walked away from Boys State with a ton of newly gained confidence.
“As lobbyist I had to go up to several other people and ask them questions and try to persuade to lean one way or an other. With my entire city, we were collectively family, basically,” said McPeak. “I looked at other cities, no offense to Duggan (City). I saw how some of them were separated into certain groups within their city.”
As a member of Duggan City, Jafari said, on top of attending political school, he was elected as state party delegate and then senator.
“I would report to the senate every day,” said Jafari. “I really didn’t spend that much time in the city. I would have liked to, but most of my time was spent creating policies and implementing polices that we could get passed through the House of Reps and also just learning about the whole process the U.S. Senate goes through.”
As a Boys State Senator, Jafari said the experience was a lot of fun, but it also meant stepping up as a leader in more ways than one.
“I had to console with my city council every night. Tell them whats happening. A lot of the time they didn’t know what was happening or what was not, and I really had to take a hold of the reins and tell them ‘This is what’s going to happen, if you don’t stop it Duggan is done.’”
Walworth said he had a big interest in attending Boys State and was surprised when he learn of his nomination to attend. He also said that, while his time at Boys State was unique, it was also very inspiring.
“Learning more about our nation and the political structure in governmental organizations, it was really unique learning it from that setting and being able to learn that, but also learning more about leadership, patriotism and citizenship and that aspect,” he said. “Just the learning experience of the week itself was very inspiring, but then being able to be alongside 900 other boys and being able to see their different paths and how they have similar interests and like-mindedness, was very inspiring.”
Jafari, who is applying to attend West Point United States Military Academy after graduation, said not only does he feel better prepared for the future thanks to Boys State, but it is something that will look really great on his West Point application.
“Getting senator there was a really big goal for me, and I was really proud of myself. It took a lot of work. I was making speeches and shaking hands. I met a lot of really great guys there that I’m still in contact with. Hopefully, if I need their help on something I know they’ll be there for me.”
When he was nominated to attend Boys State, McPeak said he was surprised, but glad he got to attend.
“Whenever they called me to the office, I personally thought I was in trouble,” said McPeak.
“It didn’t really hit me until the Wednesday of Boys State that people were paying attention to what I was doing either in class or outside of class, and that really did hit it home for me.”
While he doesn’t have a school selected yet, Walworth said he is planning to receive his undergraduate degree in the field of business and then pursue a graduate degree in business administration.
Jafari is currently filling out the applications and collecting senator nominations to apply for West Point, which he says is a long process, but believes it will be worth it to attend.
McPeak said he is applying with hopes of attending North Dakota State or another surrounding college.