Girls State offers training in the practical processes of self government and good citizenship as practiced in a democratic society.
Each summer, approximately 20,000 enthusiastic young women participate in sessions across the nation. The “citizens” study local, county and state government processes. They do this by setting up their own miniature city, county and state governments and administer them according to the laws of their particular state.
After arriving, the citizens are divided into two political parties, often named the Nationalists and the Federalists. These parties do not reflect the two major political parties in today’s system of government. The parties allow citizens to gain knowledge about the operation of a two-party system.
Girls State citizens participate in these instructional political parties, and elections are held to fill city and state positions. Activities include legislative sessions, campaigning, party rallies, debating and voting. The citizens also receive special instruction in parliamentary procedure.
Girls State affords participants an opportunity to live together as self-governing citizens by informing them about the privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.
This learning experience better familiarizes the young women with their duties as United States citizens and encourages their participation in the democratic process.
Girls State began as one- and two-day sessions in the late 1930s. Washington, D.C. and Delaware are credited with first launching the program. In 1939, Girls State was expanded to a week-long government education program. Since 1948, it has been a regular part of the Auxiliary’s Americanism curriculum.
For more than 60 years, the American Legion Auxiliary has succeeded in giving young women the finest citizenship training program possible. The program has grown from a few hundred participants to nearly 20,000 delegates annually.
The Auxiliary has long been recognized by Freedom’s Foundation at Valley Forge, Pa., for the Girls State and Girls Nation programs. Girls Nation has been recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and has been placed on the National Advisory List of Contests and Activities.
Members of the American Legion Auxiliary have structured the program in order to meet the following objectives:
to develop leadership and pride in American citizens
to educate citizens about our system of government
to instill a greater understanding of American traditions
to stimulate a desire to maintain our democratic government processes
Girls are eligible to attend if they meet the following criteria:
completed Junior year in high school
interested in government and current events
have high moral character
have strong leadership abilities
have an above average scholastic standing
Delegates are a diverse group of women who share a common desire to learn. From small towns to urban areas, the delegates’ varying backgrounds add spirit to the program.
Delegates to the program are selected by American Legion Auxiliary Units working with local high school educators who assist in evaluating potential leadership qualities of the delegates.
The number of Girls State citizens in each state varies greatly and is determined by each state’s American Legion Auxiliary available resources.
The program is funded by the American Legion Auxiliary, with some additional support coming from other civic and non-profit organizations. Little or no expense is required of the young woman and her family.
If eligible, Girls State citizens have the opportunity to receive financial assistance through the Samsung American Legion Scholarship.
This scholarship will be awarded to qualified students who are descendants of Untied States wartime veterans. Selection criteria includes academic record, community involvement, school activities and financial need.
Various other college scholarships are offered through the American Legion Auxiliary. Check with your local American Legion Auxiliary Unit to see what scholarships are available in your area.
To encourage creativity and fellowship, many activities are offered as a part of the program. Come activiites include:
Judicial court system
Girls State has provided a valuable learning ground for hundreds of thousands of accomplished women. It has instilled in these women a deeper understanding of government operations.
Jane Pauley NBC Broadcast Journalist
Ann Richards former Governor of Texas
Jessica Mitchell VPof Design/Director of Apparel for Liz Claiborne
Captain Michelle Johnson 1st Woman to serve as Wing Commander at the U.S. Air Force Academy
Sandra Dorsey Rice Vice President, Eastern Region, Emma Bowen Foundation
Kate Shindle Miss America 1998
Ericka Dunlap Miss America 2004
Lynne Cheney Wife of U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney
United States Representatives: Jennifer Dunn, Washington Constance A. Morella, Maryland (former) Barbara Cubin, Wyoming