Nearly 300 high school girls from across Arizona gathered at the University of Arizona for the 72nd session of the American Legion Auxiliary’s premier program, American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Arizona Girls State.
Scottsdale Preparatory Academy student Rosie Eden, 17, of southern Scotts-dale was among them.
“As someone who is extremely interested in politics, Girls State was the perfect program for me,” Rosie said. “I was drawn to the program by its ability to simulate something as monumental as Arizona’s state government.”
Girls State is a weeklong program designed to educate young women in the functions of their government and spark the desire to actively participate and responsibly fulfill their role as citizens.
The program is open to girls completing their junior year of high school who meet the necessary qualifications.
Also in attendance from Scottsdale Unified School District and Scottsdale-area schools were Scottsdale Preparatory Academy student Paulina Titterington, Arcadia High School students Claire McCarville, Eileen Spahle and Sofia Avino; Chaparral High School students Isabella Struckman, Cassity Bunjovac, Meave Lomax and Riley Glick; Desert Mountain High School student Tara Namie; Horizon High School students Sona Shah and Phoenix Irwin-McCabe; and Notre Dame Preparatory student Nichole Huffman.
Girls State includes 12 cities and four counties, with 22-24 girls in each city and about 75 girls in each county.
The girls are then divided into two pseudo political parties called federalists and nationalists.
Each city elected a mayor and council, wrote their own ordinances and resolutions, and passed a budget and a strategy for planning and zoning.
Cities were then assigned to a county, and the students campaigned to be elected to county and state positions.
Throughout the week, the young women conducted city and party meetings, wrote and debated bills and received instruction from actual elected state and county officials.
“I enjoyed how even in cooperation with the rigid structure of government, Girls State allowed us delegates to use our creativity to truly make our fictional cities our own,” Rosie said.
Midweek, the students elected a governor and secretary of state, and the young women elected to those two positions will return to preside over the 73rd session of Girls State.
“I think the most important thing I learned from Arizona Girls State is how to campaign,” Rosie said.
She added that those running for office had the opportunity to make campaign posters and engage in a meet-the-candidates night, where all of the girls running for office would shake hands, introduce themselves and describe their beliefs to the other delegates.
“I learned how to effectively communicate my ideas to other delegates and how to get my name out there,” she said. “It was a great way to experience what the campaigning process is like.”
Rosie said the highlight was being elected Supreme Court justice.
“When I first got to Girls State, the idea of running for a state position felt extremely daunting,” she said. “I ended up really enjoying the campaigning process as it helped me meet so many girls with similar passions to my own.”
Rosie recalled standing on a stage with only two minutes to persuade over 300 girls to vote for her.
“When I learned that I was elected to the position, I was euphoric; it was my favorite moment of Girls State,” she said.
After she was elected, Rosie joined the court program and acted as a defense attorney in the Girls State Mock Trial.
This was an important learning opportunity for Rosie because she is considering a career in law.
“The court delegates had the opportunity to work with real prosecution attorneys to strengthen our cases,” she said. “Throughout our trial, I was able to experience the conditions of a lawyer, and I could exercise my knowledge of the law and my ability to construct persuasive arguments.”
Girls State Director Penny Maklary describes the program as “a week that shapes a lifetime.”
“Similar to past years, we have senior staff that work as city and county advisors, while junior counselors return from the previous year’s Girls State session to assist senior staff in the education – and fun – process,” Maklary said.
At the end of the week, two delegates were elected as senators.
Senators from across the country will attend the ALA Girls Nation convention July 20-27 in Washington, D.C.
More than 7,000 young women have participated in Girls Nation – an all-expenses-paid event – since its founding in 1947.
In Arizona, Chaparral’s Maeve and Audrey Landers from Campo Verde High School in Gilbert were selected to attend.
At Girls Nation, they will debate federal issues they present as bills and visit the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery and the White House, among other memorials in the nation’s capital.
Rosie said young women should consider taking part in Girls State because it is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where girls learn by doing.”
“By joining Girls State, I was able to surround myself with some of the brightest, most qualified girls from all over the Arizona, which led to some passionate political discussions and the attainment of many lifelong friends,” she said.