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Girls and Boys State give teens a taste of government

SPRINGVILLE  — American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State teach select high school students how government works, while developing leadership skills and an appreciation for American civil rights. Participants in this program create a government of a mythical 51st state, including running for office, learning public speaking, creating and enforcing laws and actively participating in all phases of creating and running a working government.

Girls State has been a program of the American Legion since 1937. It is a hands-on weeklong educational workshop focusing on Americanism and the political process, according to the organization.

“First, we were formed into two parties, yellow and blue, and then you had a suite, where you had a few people from your party and a few people from the other party that you had to get along with. During the week, you would go into parliament and go through the procedures that take place,” said Tainne Dallas, who participated in the program this past summer. “Then, we would meet with our parties and we were split up into different groups that had different jobs, within the parliament.

“It made me really take an interest in government. It gave me insight on how our government works and the process it takes to form our country,” she explained. “It made me want to be more informed and involved in our government.”

At the end of the program, two girls are selected from each state to attend Girls Nation, a national government training program. Girls Nation “senators” meet for a week in Washington D.C., where they run for political office, campaign for the passage of legislation and meet with state Representatives and Senators. At the end of Girls Nation week, there is often an opportunity to meet with the president, as well.

Boys State has been a program of The American Legion since 1935. Participants are exposed to the rights, privileges, duties and the responsibilities of a franchised citizen. It involves a week of activities, headed by U.S. Marines, that focuses the boys’ attention on discipline and physical training, according to that organization. While there, the boys also become part of a mythical state and participate in marching drills, room preparation and different athletic games, during the week.

In the Boys State program, each participant becomes a part of the operation of his local, county and state government. The training gives the participants experience in city, county and state governments, as well as elections to various offices. Activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, chorus and recreational programs.

This year, Jessica Weide, a junior at Springville Griffith-Institute High School, has been selected as a candidate for the Girls State program.

“I’m super excited to be chosen. It’s a big honor to be the one girl who gets to represent the school. Government is something I plan on majoring [in], in school so it’s awesome to get a head start,” Weide explained. “I’m pumped to meet new people outside of Western New York, as well!”

For more information on these programs and which local American Legion posts are currently seeking participants to represent their locations, visit www.boysandgirlsstate.org/girls.html.


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