This past summer I had the privilege of attending California Girls State run by the American Legion Auxiliary. For one week, 500 girls from all across the state came together at Claremont McKenna College to create a simulated state government. As the delegate from Mountain View High School, I was excited to see what this opportunity would have in store.
From the moment we unpacked our bags, we were put to work building our government. We were organized into 16 cities and four counties. To begin electing officials, we had to choose our different parties, the Torries and the Whigs. To do this we were only given a basic description of each party, whether it was a supporter of big or small government. We later had to devise the planks of this party and decide collectively what our position was on topics such as gun control, LGBTQ rights, education, and much more. At one party meeting in particular, I had the most thought provoking and respectful discussion on gun control. Girls passionately shared their perspective while also listening and learning from the viewpoints of others around them.
At Girls State, we began building our government, starting at the city level by electing the city council and two congresswomen and a senator to represent our city in the house and senate. Prior to Girls State, each delegate wrote a bill on something they would like to see incorporated into the constitution of our simulated state. From the beginning of the week, senators passed, tabled, and killed bills, ultimately forming the backbone of our state.
From city to county to state positions, each delegate could only hold one elected position. Girls like myself ran for offices earlier in the week and lost, giving us the opportunity to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and run again. For me, I chose to run for one of the seven positions on the Supreme Court. Giving a speech before the audience of 500, I reached out to the other girls from the discussion groups, from the long lines and silly conversations as we waited for dinner. I was just another girl who had a lot to say and who believed she could serve the people well as a justice.
Out of 27 girls running for seven positions, I was able to make it onto the court. That same night we elected the rest of our state government, completing the functioning body and drawing an end to the most enthralling experience of my life.
From Girls State I came home with an instilled awareness of my civic responsibility. When I was there it felt incredible to be surrounded by extremely intelligent, compassionate young women. This collected body felt so right being at the forefront of decisions and leading the government. Yet looking at where we are with our world today I realize now how unusual it is for a group of women to come together and hold positions of power. With what I experienced at Girls State, I undoubtedly know that programs like these are changing our world, and I look forward to the day where there is an equal presence of both women and men in our government.