2017-08-02 / Front Page

Cocchiaro first Morgan Countian to be elected Boys State governor

by Kate Evans

Angelo Cocchiaro and Ryan Fisher, Morgan County’s citizen delegates at the 2017 American Legion Mountaineer Boys State, are seen at the camp with local American Legion official Theo Chambers, a Boys State counselor and instructor. Angelo Cocchiaro and Ryan Fisher, Morgan County’s citizen delegates at the 2017 American Legion Mountaineer Boys State, are seen at the camp with local American Legion official Theo Chambers, a Boys State counselor and instructor. Upcoming Berkeley Springs High School senior Angelo Cocchiaro was elected governor at the 2017 American Legion Mountaineer Boys State and is the first representative from Berkeley Springs and Morgan County in the 80 years of Mountaineer Boys State to achieve the honor. Boys State was held June 11 through June 17 at West Virginia University’s Jackson Mill, where it was founded in 1936.

Mountaineer Boys State is West Virginia’s American Legion Boys State program. Boys State is one of the most respected government education programs and leadership academies in the country for high school students.

Delegates learn the basics of how government works along with the rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities of a citizen and are trained to operate the city, county and state government to which they are elected and operate during Boys State week.

Angelo Cocchiaro Angelo Cocchiaro Cocchiaro attended Mountaineer Boys State with upcoming Berkeley Springs High School senior Ryan Fisher and American Legion Alderton-Dawson Post 60 official Theo Chambers, who serves as a Boys State senior counselor and sheriff’s department instructor.

Cocchiaro said he enjoyed attending Boys State, meeting new people and government officials from around the state and also speaking at the state American Legion convention.

He really liked that Boys State “was a full-fledged, fully functional 51st state.”

His election and lessons

Cocchiaro said he’s interested in pursuing a career in politics and decided to run for Boys State governor. He faced around a half-dozen opponents in the primary election and got 25% of the votes. His two closest rivals tied for 22% of the votes. In the general election, Cocchiaro received 64% of the votes for governor.

Cocchiaro said when he was inaugurated, he gave a State of the State address about what he wanted to accomplish that included a “New Deal” of public works programs and infrastructure improvements. However, the Boys State legislature wasn’t interested in his agenda and Cocchiaro was unable to get anything he chose passed.

Cocchiaro said that while their legislature passed some laws, he now understands the congressional gridlock that Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have encountered.

“I learned a greater appreciation for the way our government and our democratic institutions work and got to see how they worked first hand,” Cocchiaro said.

Cocchiaro said that Boys State was “the most fundamental transformative experience of my life” and that he wants to get involved in state politics.

“I would encourage any upcoming senior to go to it,” he said of Boys State.

Interests & involvements

Cocchiaro is a Rotary Interact member. He is also a member of the Morgan County Partnership Teen Court and the Lions Club and hopes to start a Leo Club at the high school this year.

Cocchiaro said he’s been in touch with the West Virginia Democratic Party and hopes to begin a Young Democrats Club at school. He also wants to help the high school achieve the Jennings Randolph Award for having 100% of all eligible students registered to vote. Cocchiaro ran high school cross country and track last year.

Cocchiaro is considering a possible college major in political science with a minor in international relations and is exploring several possible colleges to attend after he graduates.

The Boys State program

Mountaineer Boys State citizens run for offices such as governor, attorney general, state Supreme Court justice, delegate, senator, mayor, sheriff, county commissioner and school board member. They conduct legislative sessions, pass laws, hold court trials and have law enforcement presentations and assemblies.

Other activities include guest speakers, band, chorus, athletics and recreational programs. This year’s speakers included Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

Boys can explore seven career paths that week at Boys State-political, legal, journalism, law enforcement, National Guard, emergency services and banking. Students also produce a daily newspaper and nightly broadcast.

Boys State operates a functioning fire department, 911 dispatch center and EMS station and has DNR police officers, state troopers, a Homeland Security/National Guard unit and other real world institutions that students learn to run.

Selection of candidates

Theo Chambers, who is on the Boys State selection committee, said that Legion officials generally go with the high schools’ recommendation of candidates. Most are from Berkeley Springs High School, but occasionally they have one from Paw Paw High School. Chambers tries to get as many teens as possible to attend Boys State.

High school juniors are eligible to attend Boys State and are usually required to maintain a grade point average of 3.2 or above, but it can be a lower grade point average if teachers recommend them as good students, he said.

Chambers said the local American Legion Post raises the money for candidates to attend Mountaineer Boys State so it’s not a burden on the kids and their families.

Chambers said he wished he knew about Boys State when he was young. West Virginia has the second oldest Boys State chapter in the nation and is a leader nationally for the program.

Boys Nation, other

Two members of the American Legion Mountaineer Boys State are selected to represent West Virginia annually at the American Legion Boys Nation, which is held in Washington, D.C.

Boys State and Boys Nation participants are eligible for several potential scholarships. The American Legion also sponsors an annual Oratorical Contest.

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