Preparing for Girls' State
ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS ABOVE: Girls attending Girls' State and the women who helped them prepare include LaRue Fritz, second vice president of Unit 314; Cathy Olker, district president; Schyler Cordova; Sarah Ochs; Mallory Brinley; Christine McDonald; Ruth Porter, chair of the Girls' State committee; Christina Slack; MacKenzie Brezak; and Makenzie Lysek. Five were unable to attend. BELOW: Ashley Otto of Lehighton High School and Brianna Handwerk of Northern Lehigh High School are previous attendees of Girls' State. They came to the tea to help prepare the girls for the event.
Young women preparing to attend Girls' State at Shippensburg University next week gathered for a tea last Saturday at Oplinger Post 899, Walnutport to learn more about what they can expect.
The tea was hosted by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 899, and was for the purpose of preparing the girls for an experience in government.
Girls' State takes place from June 23-29. Area guidance counselors either recommended the girls or suggested they apply.
Cathy Olker, district president for the auxiliaries of all units in four counties, is a liaison between the state and local groups. She said there are both boys for Boys' State and girls in Shippensburg, but their activities are separate with the exception of a co-ed picnic.
Olker said one year Lehighton had seven girls who wanted to go so neighboring auxiliary units were asked to sponsor some of them. The trip is paid for by the American Legion.
Girls must have completed their junior year in high school and be prepared for their senior year.
Two girls who attended previously are Ashley Otto of Lehighton Area High School and Brianna Handwerk of Northern Lehigh High School. They came to talk to the girls.
Leadership and citizenship are learned through experience. There are two political parties: the Naturalists and the Federalists.
"It's a different way of learning about government," said Ashley. "You meet a lot of people and it is good to add it to your college applications."
Attendees are divided into cities of 20 girls. They are assigned to a political party. Officials such as council members, a governor or mayor, or other officials are elected.
During the campaign a candidate for office has to be friendly to everyone and ask them to vote for her.
Clothing has to cover the knees except when the girls are in their rooms for the evening, said Brianna. Khakis are required for the trip to Harrisburg. If their local representative is at the capital, a meeting will be arranged.
Olker asked the girls why they wanted to attend. One is interested in going to West Point and thought it would improve her chances. Another won the Dwight D. Eisenhower award and thinks it will be interesting. She is considering the Naval Academy and is in the ROTC now.
Olker said she wants Unit 899's group to be the best prepared.
She said it is not like a camp experience, but is very intense with long days. They will learn how to write a bill and get it through a legislature. A fictitious problem is presented and the legislature, with help from its constituents, has to solve it.
There are guest speakers last year speakers portrayed Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.
Flag etiquette is an everyday event. A city song has to be written.
Each girl is also expected to write to her sponsoring unit.
LaRue Fritz, Girls' State chairman for Unit 314, Lehighton, said two girls from each state will be chosen to attend Girls' Nation in Washington D.C. in July.
Fritz, who is scholarship chairman, said among the many scholarships provided by the auxiliaries is one of $1,000 for health and medical science training. Fritz said she hoped they all have a good time.
The girls are Schyler Cordova, Lehighton Area High School; Sarah Ochs, Mallory Brinley and Christine McDonald, Northwestern Lehigh High School; Christina Slack and Catherine Condly, Jim Thorpe Area High School; MacKenzie Brezak and Makenzie Lysek, Emmaus High School; Nina Giambalvo, Pleasant Valley High School; Melissa Brandes and Mollie Higgins, Pocono Mountain East High School; and Rachel Anson, Liberty High School.
Tina Ressler is president of Unit 899.