Creating leaders - Girls State provides opportunities for growth

Rigby girls attend Girls State at Northwest Nazarene University in June of 2019. Pictured from left to right are Gracie Shippen, McKenzie Mechan, Rayana Tupper, Cameron Anderson, Kaydreanna Castaneda, Joie Eckersell and Ella Baca. Cameron went to Girls State in 2018 and returned as a senator this summer.

American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Girls State is a highly respected, experiential summer leadership learning program first introduced in the late 1930s.

The purpose of Girls State is to “provide an outstanding, unique, and coveted educational opportunity for the young women of our nation that instills the basic ideals and principles of American government.” Part of its mission is to train leaders well-grounded in patriotism guided by the principle “For God and Country.”

Auxiliary members select participants, although school personnel may provide recommendations and help schedule presentations by ALA members.

Girls who have completed their junior year are eligible for consideration to attend Girls State. They must have a keen interest in government and be willing to be educated on the U.S. democratic form of government. They must also possess high moral character and show leadership and academic capabilities.

Through an application and interview process, Rigby’s Lloyd Crystal Unit 20 sponsored 14 girls to Girls State from Rigby, West Jefferson and Clark County high schools for the 2019 session.

Upward of 20,000 girls from across the nation attend Girls State each summer. For one week, they are immersed in a non-partisan curriculum which allows delegates to assume leadership roles in mock government settings.

While at Girls State, delegates campaign for and are elected to office living in “cities” on college or university campuses.

In Idaho, Girls State delegates are housed in a dormitory on the campus of Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. For one week in June, they help one another campaign for offices such as seats on city councils, mayor and various other committees. As citizen delegates, the girls write and debate bills for adoption.

While in Nampa, the girls attend meaningful sessions, hear guest presenters and learn flag etiquette. Spending a day at the Idaho State Capitol Building in Boise provides opportunity to visit senate and house chambers. Girls also have opportunity to return as pages for real legislative sessions.

Attire for the week’s sessions is business professional and girls report they enjoy stepping up to meet the expectation. Evenings are spent working on campaigns and executing the duties of their elected offices. While at Girls State, delegates have opportunity to earn college credit for their experience. They eat meals and form lasting friendships with one another and their counselors.

When possible, the girls are treated to a tour of the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery where they learn a deeper respect, reverence and honor for veteran heroes.

A talent event Thursday night showcases the girls’ talents, whether musical, dramatic, or other art form. Friday night is a more formal inauguration event that families may attend.

Following each summer session, two delegates from each state are selected as “senators” to attend Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. They and their parents are hosted by the Auxiliary. The girls further develop their leadership skills and learn about their American heritage. They also craft and debate passage of legislation and meet their real life counterparts on Capitol Hill.

Because American Legion Auxiliary Girls State is such a prestigious program, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has placed it on the National Advisory List of Contests and Activities. This means NASSP deems Girls State a legitimate, educational opportunity for students throughout the nation.

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