Emily Zheng, a senior this fall 2014 at Arcadia High School
One of the most valuable hidden gems in California, California Girls State is an experience of a lifetime for high school junior girls. Many people, including myself, did not know about this program in-depth before attending, but it is truly a life-changing experience that positively empowers girls and instills the basic ideals and principles of American government. What is Girls State? It is a week-long leadership program of the American Legion Auxiliary designed to increase knowledge of governmental processes and the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of citizenship.
More than 500 girls participate as delegates each year after being nominated by a high school teacher and passing an interview process. Delegates are split into counties and cities, mimicking the layout of California’s government system. Participants are given chances to run for elected positions, from City Council to Assembly to Governor.
Group photo with my city of Fremont
I had the privilege of attending Girls State this year. When I stepped onto the Claremont McKenna campus where it was held, I was not sure what to expect. What are the other girls like? What is expected of me? Will there be a lot of competition? I discovered that Girls State is definitely not just about learning about the government. I was greeted by 27 excited, friendly, and amazingly talented girls from my city. From the start, I felt like I was at home, with wonderful people surrounding me, supporting each other every step of the way.
We were immediately immersed with the workings of Girls State, running and voting on city positions and state positions in Assembly and Senate. I had the honor of being elected as Senator for my designated city of Fremont.
Senate session. I am the one standing in the middle in dark blue.
Through this position, I worked with the other senators to pass, amend, or kill bills that concerned numerous issues facing California today, including human trafficking, methane emissions from cows, the welfare of foster children, and education reform.
It was humbling to see so many girls so passionate about these subjects. I have had an interest in politics for many years, but have never had such a fast-paced discussion on a wide range of issues that pushed me to quickly formulate an opinion that best represented both my city and my party. Girls State provided an opportunity to think critically while promoting cooperation among members of each party to actively do what they think is best for the state of California.
Playing flute for the Talent Show
There are many niches for everyone to meet new people and discover new passions, from the talent show to the newspaper to discussion groups. Though I have barely scratched the surface of the incredible experience at Girls State, it is truly a place where girls can thrive, learn more about the government, and discover the duties of being a citizen of the United States of America. For more information, you can visit their website at http://www.cagirlsstate.org/. In 2013, the program was cut from 6 1/2 days to 5 1/2 days due to insufficient funds, and $40,000 needs to be raised by the end of July to add this day back. If you would like to donate, please visit http://www.cagsaf.org/donate.html. You can put my name on the comments section (PayPal) or the memo line (checks), if you would like, so it can go towards my pledge. Thank you all for supporting Girls State, an absolutely amazing experience!
City Expo with our party and city hats!
— By Emily Zheng