Buckeye Boys State participants sing a final song as they end their ecumenical church service and graduation ceremony at Bowling Green State University on Sunday.
The Blade/Andy Morrison
The annual Buckeye Boys State program at Bowling Green State University concluded Sunday morning in the Stroh Center with a closing ceremony headlined by words of wisdom from Maumee resident and former participant Bob Oehlers.
Mr. Oehlers was the graduation speaker and drew on his experience to offer advice to the 1,200 participants, all of whom are entering their senior years of high school. Mr. Oehlers, 46, took part in the 1984 Buckeye Boys State when he was at Whitmer High School. He graduated from West Point in 1989 and served as an army officer for six years.
PHOTO GALLERY: Buckeye Boys State program
Sponsored by the Ohio American Legion, Buckeye Boys State is an eight-day program where students from across Ohio learn about the democratic form of government, the organization of political parties, and the relationship of one to the other in shaping Ohio government.
Mr. Oehlers, who works for the OmniSource Corporation after receiving an MBA from the University of Toledo in 2000, was one of two students from Ohio selected to Boys Nation in 1984 after Boys State, allowing him to travel to Washington and meet President Ronald Reagan. He’s active in Conn-Weissenberger Post 587, the same post that sponsored him for Buckeye Boys State 29 years ago, and encouraged the participants to serve America in the future, whether it be as a military member or civilian.
“I think about how the American Legion programs have changed my life and encourage you to take your experiences ... and focus on making the American Legion motto ‘For God and Country’ and work hard in the future to serve both on a daily basis,” he said.
While at Buckeye Boys State, students take roles in a mock state and local government. Program participants are selected through a competitive process that includes an interview.
“None of you would be here today if you hadn’t learned that you had the ability to lead,” Mr. Oehlers said. “Not everyone in your peer group has the capacity to make a difference, or this arena would be filled with every soon-to-be high school senior male in Ohio.”
Brice Coolidge of Elida was a member of a mock city council. He said there was pressure in passing land and utility ordinances, but the council accomplished a lot of tasks.
“It’s a life-changing week, basically,” he said. “I definitely transformed this week.”
Family and friends of participants also gathered for the ceremony, which included an ecumenical church service and presentation of awards. Buckeye Boys State is the largest Boys State program in the nation. It has occurred every year since the inaugural program in 1936, except when canceled in 1945 and 1952, and has been held at BGSU since 1978.