Few teens are fortunate enough to know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Fortunately for Elkins resident Preston Marsh, he doesn't seem to have that problem.
Marsh spent much of his summer in pursuit of the things that interest him the most: criminal justice and civil service.
After spending his summer at various camps and attending classes, Marsh is pretty certain about what he expects to do with his future. He has had an interest in criminal justice since he was a young child, an interest his mother Lois says spans back as far as playing with a police car which was his favorite toy when he was growing up.
A former paper boy for The Inter-Mountain, a member of the Elkins High School Marching Band and Jazz bands, as well as piano player for the Church of the Brethren in Elkins and Orlena United Methodist Church in Gilman.
Marsh is also involved with ROTC and said that current events and crime in the area inspired him to pursue a career in law enforcement. Marsh says one of his fondest memories was when the State Police talked to his school about drinking and driving and drug and alcohol prevention.
"It really caught my interest," Marsh said. "(Law enforcement is) something I've always wanted to do."
If this summer is any indication, he is on the right track.
Marsh started out the summer attending Mountaineer Boys State in Jackson's Mill from June 9-15, where students learn about six different career paths that participating boys (referred to as "citizens") can choose including Political, Legal, Newspaper, Banking, Law Enforcement and National Guard/Homeland Security.
According to the mountaineerboysstate.org, "participants are exposed to the rights and privileges, the duties and the responsibilities of a franchised citizen" and "the training is objective and practical with city, county and state governments operated by the students elected to the various offices."
Citizens can participate in activities like legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, chorus and recreational programs. Marsh said that he was drawn to the program through his interest in law enforcement and military service.
Marsh also attended the West Virginia State Police Junior Trooper Academy in Institute, the location of the West Virginia State Police Academy. The program was held from July 22-26.
Students who applied had to be nominated by a State Police employee, a member of the West Virginia legislature or the school superintendent for the nominated student's respective school, as well as write an essay explaining why they would be a good candidate and detailing what they expected from their experience at the Academy. Students learned self-defense tactics, shooting exercises, drug detection, classes and demonstrations and underwent physical fitness training and a mock domestic violence scenario where each of the students got to use their skills to investigate.
Marsh also attended the Youth Justice Academy in WVU Parkersburg, where students participate in activities such as a SWAT team demonstration, Police K-9 unit demonstration, a West Virginia Police Physical Agility Test, CPR and First Aid Certification, Arrest and Cuffing demonstration, West Virginia State Police Crime Scene demonstration, a Wood County Sheriff's demonstration and a Law Enforcement Helicopter demonstration. Students will also participate in various team competitions including Police Agility, First Aid, Shooting, CSI, Arrest and Cuffing, Obstacle Course, Climbing Wall and Paintball.
Marsh's summer, which also included taking a criminal justice class with David Taylor, a former Upshur County Sheriff candidate, at West Virginia Wesleyan College, was a large step toward his goal. He has been able to further his possible military career by attending drills in Grafton with a Military Police Unit, but says that as great as military service is, he feels the career in which he'd best be able to make a difference is in law enforcement.
"I want more of a civilian job," Marsh says. "I really like it here and would like to stay local."
When asked if Marsh's interest in his fields of choice was something that he shared with other members of his family, Marsh said that no other family members shared his interest.
"It's a calling," Marsh's mother Lois said. "I'm really lucky to have someone so healthy and active and who has so much drive."
As he starts his final year of high school, Marsh already charted some of the plans for his future. After completing his Army training in Fort Jackson, S.C., where he will be sent on June 16, he plans to attend either Fairmont State University or WVU Parkersburg, majoring in criminal justice.
Marsh said that his interests could lead him into some EMT training and hopefully a position with the state police. He continues to be interested in crime scene investigation and forensics, as well.
"It's the process that interests me the most," Marsh said. "I have always been interested in how law enforcement officials are able to catch the person responsible for the crime."
If his efforts this summer are any indication, he will continue to work hard to not only achieve his goals but to also strive to make a difference in his community.