By Staphany Hou

570 girls, gathered in the McKenna Auditorium of Claremont McKenna College, shouted at the top of their lungs, “Are you from Girls State?!!! Yeah, yeah!!” The 70th Session of American Legion Auxiliary’s California Girls State had begun.

Held from June 17 to June 22, the 2013 California Girls State was an unforgettable experience for all the students attending. Hailing from cities all over the state, these girls were all nominated by their schools as brilliant leaders, interested in the workings of a state government.

Every day, from 7am to 10:30pm, was packed with activities. Each floor of a dorm was labeled as a city (I was in the city of Balboa), and each dorm building was a county (I was in Larken County!). A total of 16 cities made up the 4 counties that made up California State! From city meetings to county meetings, girls essentially set up a mock government – complete with city mayors and clerks, county Board of Education, and much more. Girls also chose their political party on the first day – Tories and Whigs, with party meetings held throughout the week as well. Going through the election process at each level of government was an incredible learning experience. As one Girls State representative Serenity Green said, “It’s definitely empowering for people of our age group to understand how to go about the process of voting and what it actually entails.”

The grand culmination of the week was the State Election, in which girls ran for Governor, Attorney General, and much more. Aligned with their respective parties, the candidates gave speeches to the entire Girls State, as well as a “whistle-stop tour,” where they answered specific questions about their stance, their goals, and their experience in government. On Saturday, June 22nd, as the week approached a close, two girls were sent off to Girls Nation (held in Washington, D.C.), and this year’s Girls State session was adjourned.

Girls State 2Over the course of this one-week, incredible friendships were made between not just the girls, but also the counselors and the girls. Counselors, all of who had been Girls State representatives (some even attended Girls Nation), imparted their experience, advice, and knowledge to these young talented girls. For many girls, as it was for Jackie Sanchez, “It made me more open-minded and informed about the process of voting and how much a single vote can impact the outcome. You meet better people and make better friends than even the ones in your entire high school!” And for the counselors, such as Molly Green, “It was very inspiring to see what the future holds and that there is a group of amazing young women with brains and strong hearts who will lead this country.”

To participate in the 2014 CA Girls State, you can contact your school counselor or college & career center for more information! The selection process usually occurs during January or February.