Keystone Girls State tea held by Oplinger-Howard Post 899 Ladies Auxiliary
Present at the tea were Ruth Porter, Girls State Council chairman; LaRue Fritz, state chairman of Unit 14; Pat Clemens, senior counselor; Tanya De Cindio, Tamaqua High School; Chey Davis, Lehighton High School; Cheyenne McLaughlin of East Stroudsburg; Sarah Branchild of Lansford; Mariah Bower of East Stroudsburg; Avery Herrmann of Pleasant Valley High School; Jourdan Semmel, a junior counselor; Taylor Moyer of Pen Argyle; Maria Lear of Slatedale; and Meghan Pensyl of Portland. Not present for the photo were Danielle Harley, Elisya Cannon-Besecker, Rhiannon Hare and Julia Fillman.
Thirteen girls were chosen by American Legion Auxiliaries in the Four-county Council that includes Carbon, Monroe, Northampton and Lehigh counties to attend Girls State from June 20-26.
On June 13 they were feted at a tea by Oplinger-Howard Post 899 American Legion home in Lehigh Township.
At Girls State they will learn about state government in classes held at Shippensburg University where they will spend the week.
There is also a Boys State sponsored by the Legions.
Ruth Porter, Girls State Council chairman, welcomed the girls and their mothers. She said the 150 Girls State participants receive training in practical self-government on the local, county and state level and about the two-party system. Across the country there are 20,000 participants.
They are chosen on the basis of completion of their junior year of high school, interest in government and current events, high moral character, strong leadership abilities and above average scholastic standing.
The citizens, as the girls are known when they arrive at the university, are assigned to units of 20, considered cities. They are assigned to one of two parties, neither copied from the Democratic or Republican parties, and elections are held to fill city and state positions.
They campaign for positions and learn parliamentary procedures. Girls hold rallies, debates, and finally voting takes place.
The sponsoring auxiliaries provide scholarships for the girls to attend. They have a busy day, said Porter as she told the girls what to expect.
In addition to government they are involved in journalism, public speaking, singing, talent shows, field trips, devotions, patriotic ceremonies, veterans panel and learning about the judicial court system.
Presenters will be someone from the Superior Court (Judge Cheryl Allen), mayors, council members, public defenders, or anyone from state government.
The Legion Riders will tell how they help returning veterans, including, this year, a Gold Star father whose son died in the war "doing what he wanted to do."
On Wednesday they go to Harrisburg to see how state government is run. There will be a Housing for the Homeless outreach.
Attendance makes the girls eligible for college credits.
Jourdan Semmel, voted most outstanding girl last year, will be returning as a junior counselor. She said if you are not elected to a standard office, girls can make up their own positions.
"I was the Elevator Operator," she said. "You learn the proper method of flag raising."
She said she ran for the position of state governor on a write-in vote. After a week you will not see most of the girls again, "So get the whole experience," she suggested.
LaRue Fritz, state chairman of Unit 14, told them they would have a room with four walls and a bare bed and had to take everything they need. There are 12 staff members, 10 senior counselors and 10 junior counselors.
Pat Clemens, a senior counselor, said city meetings are held in the counselors' rooms. Counselors take coolers in which the girls can keep drinks and snacks.
Girls State has been operational since 1937. Its motto is "Learning by Doing," said Fritz.