Girls State and Girls Nation are both prestigious programs offered by the American Legion Auxiliary, a national organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, civic engagement, and leadership development among the future generations. Designed to empower and inspire young women to become active and informed citizens, while fostering friendships, creating lasting memories, and providing valuable educational and networking opportunities, these programs are the perfect program for anyone to attend to grow on an academic and personal level.
Girls State is a state-level program, typically held annually in each state across the United States, where high school junior girls are selected to participate in a week-long immersive experience in mock government and leadership training. Girls Nation is its national counterpart, bringing together the best participants from Girls State to participate in a simulated federal government experience in the precipice of civic engagement: Washington, D.C. These prestigious programs have a tradition of empowering students to become leaders in their communities and beyond, and you can be one of them.
7 Reasons to Apply for Girls State and Girls Nation
In this article, we will list seven reasons you should consider applying for Girls State and Girls Nation. For the sake of brevity, when “Girls State” is mentioned, it will refer to both Girls State and Girls Nation.
1. Building Leadership and Service Skills
Girls State is specifically designed to develop leadership and service skills for its participants through its immersive and hands-on approach to learning and projects. Participants will have the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills in a simulated government setting, where you will have to take charge of yourself and create a plan and community with the people around you, and undergo legislative sessions, public speaking exercises, and community service projects. This encourages participants to develop the ability to work and lead a team, develop communication, critical thinking, and decision making skills, all while learning how to deal with high pressure scenarios and quick thinking. Girls State also emphasizes the importance of service to the community, and are encouraged to participate and create their own service projects to better the community they grew up in.
2. Developing Knowledge in Civic Education
As previously mentioned, civic education is a major aspect to the function of Girls State, encouraging the next generation of bright and passionate people to be more engaged with their community and their government. By quite literally participating in mock versions of government procedures, such as debates, governments, legislative processes, and judicial hearings, this program uses hands-on teaching to educate participants on how their government works, and how they can be involved to change the world for the better. Girls State also engages in workshops, seminars, and interactive activities, encouraging critical thinking, analytical skills, and informed decision-making, empowering young women to become active and engaged citizens.
3. Meeting New People and Communities
Girls State brings together people from different schools, communities, and backgrounds, creating a unique opportunity for participants to interact with peers from diverse circumstances, which fosters cross-cultural understanding and broadens participants' world views. Through a week-long program and by living together, battling and debating in civic engagement activities, and laughing and having fun in their free time and team-building activities, participants will begin to develop a lifelong bond with the people around them, who all share similar ideals and morals to themselves. Beyond peers, Girls State programs often feature guest speakers, elected officials, and community leaders who share their experiences and insights in civic engagement to educate the new generation on how they were able to empower themselves. Lastly, through service projects, Girls State participants work closely together with their local communities to better the spaces around them, allowing all to get closer with each other, meet new people in these communities, and deliver a true positive impact during their time at Girls State.
4. Embracing the Free Opportunity to Grow and Learn
In most cases, Girls State is completely free to participate in. Thus, if you happen to be one of the few people nominated and accepted into the week-long program, you will have the marvelous opportunity to learn, grow, and have fun, only covering the small travel costs you may have to personally pay to get to where Girls State is being held in your state.
5. Receiving Recognition, Prestige, and Awards
Girls State programming will often provide opportunities for participants to be recognized for their achievements, including outstanding leadership, academic performance, or community service. This will enhance resumes and college applications, and provide a sense of accomplishment and pride for yourself and your community. Being the one to be nominated and accepted out of many people who apply to be in this program, participating in Girls State already means you are accomplished in some way, thus Girls State continue to exemplify your character and leadership to any future college applications or job interviews.
6. Exposing Yourself to New and Diverse Perspectives
Naturally, by the nature of these such programs, people from different backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and motives will all come together with the shared goal of empowering themselves and educating themselves about civic education. By engaging in discussions and debates, exchanging ideas, and learning from peers with varying perspectives and viewpoints, you can broaden your perspectives and expand your personal empathy. Girls State programs encourage participants to engage in civil discourse, appreciate different perspectives, and build bridges across differences, fostering a more inclusive and informed generation of leaders.
7. Empowering Yourself and the Women Around You
In an area that is typically male-dominated, participating in a program that encourages young girls and women to participate in governmental debate and processes, improve public speaking ability, and express their opinions and ideas, empowering everyone to embrace their intelligence and voice for their future. Girls State promotes a sense of sisterhood and solidarity amongst everyone, fostering a supportive and collaborative environment. You are encouraged to celebrate and appreciate the achievements and talents of their peers, and to work together to better yourself and the community around you.
Conducting advanced level research is another great way to build new skills, take charge and expose yourself to new perspectives. If you want an opportunity to build your own independent project and research paper, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 500 spots in the program. You can find the application form here.
Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.
Image source: Girls State logo