Updated: Nov 10, 2021
When we were told that the American Legion Auxiliary President would be speaking to all of us, I didn’t quite know what to expect. When you hear a title of that caliber, it instantly sends a chill down your back, alerting you to be on your best behavior. I expected to listen to a session all about the history of Girls State, maybe when it started or stories about the founders. However, I was pleasantly surprised when, upon joining the meeting, I was welcomed with the warm smile of Nicole Clapp. As we waited for all of the Girls State citizens to join the meeting, she even greeted a few lovely ladies she had met in Alexandria a few days prior. I knew then that we weren’t going to be listening to a stoic lecture. She began diving into her twelve life lessons which were detailed with stories. Clapp beamed as she told us about her experience running for Junior President and riding on a float in Pasadena, California, representing the American Legion Auxiliary. Her pride in her participation shone in her smile. Then, it dawned on me.
The pride in her involvement was the same as I had seen in my CCs and PC. From the dress-up days to the loving messages on Whova before and after speeches. Prior to attending Girls State, there were very few places where I had experienced this kind of inspiring and uplifting environment, and it has been refreshing and eye-opening. Prior to giving speeches, I was worried that it would be extremely competitive, however, this wasn’t the case at all. After all our speeches, the Zoom chat would flood with encouraging messages of how well you had done, and even more in our Whova chat groups to follow. All of sudden, I was excited to log on everyday and be a part of something great, something I know will change the world. Thus far, it has taught me the importance of understanding the different roles in government, building relationships with the people you are surrounded with, and breaking out of my shell! Girls State has been the first experience in which I have given a speech outside of school. It’s also been the first time where I haven’t written a speech catered around an academic subject such as Science or English but instead, a speech about myself and the abilities I steward.
Now, I understand the heart behind the smiles and compassion. It should tell you something when the same individuals who once took part in their own citizen year choose to come back and become counselors again and again. Their kind words mean so much to the citizens, more than they probably realize. Their life experience motivated us to ask them questions, and they happily supply us with answers. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I accepted the invitation to Girls State, but I am beyond grateful that I did. Girls State isn’t just a program, it is a privilege. You don’t have to attend Girls State. You get to attend Girls State.