Catawba to host 70th Consecutive Session of Tar Heel Girls State
June 14-20 will be the 70th consecutive year of Tar Heel Girls State, and for the eighth year, Catawba College will host the weeklong session.
At the annual event, sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of North Carolina, several hundred girls from across North Carolina, all high school juniors who are academically in the top third of their class, will participate. The Girls State program is a weeklong practical study of the structure and operation of North Carolina State Government. In a non-partisan atmosphere, participants take a “hands-on” approach to learning how state and local governments function. Citizens, as the participants are known, develop an understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship by creating and living under their own mock government.During the week, citizens are grouped into cities as they organize their own local government, elect officers, prepare a city charter and conduct city activities. Citizens also assume the role of a senator, representative or lobbyist to research and write bills and resolutions for the Girls State Legislature. Each citizen is also a member of a fictitious political party which will develop a party platform, engineer campaigns for party candidates and ultimately elect a slate of officers to govern Tar Heel Girls State. Parliamentary procedure is used to conduct all meetings.
Again this year, the session will be run by Auxiliary members from across the state who volunteer their time. Two of these Auxiliary members, Chair of the Commission Kaye Brown Hirst of Salisbury and Program Director Julie Cooper Head of Valdese, will be participating for their 22nd year with the program. Other local individuals involved on staff include Dr. Karl Hales, parliamentarian; Mary Jane Thompson, house mother; Tina Brown, music director; Jo Holshouser, house mother, and Fran Simpson, speaker.
Local community leaders, Bill Burgin, City councilman, will bring greetings, along with the Honorable Judge Beth Dixon, who will be swearing the girls in to citizenship of Girls State on the evening of Sunday, June 14.
Guest speakers scheduled for the 2009 Tar Heel Girls State session, all of whom will speak in Keppel Auditorium of the Robertson College-Community Center, include Elaine Marshall, Secretary of State of North Carolina, at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, June 15; Robin Pendergraft, Director of the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 16; Janet Ward Black, Attorney at Law, at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 18; Stacy Sosebee-West of Family Services of Davidson County, at 1:30 p.m.; and Johana Sisk, 2008 Tar Heel Girls State Governor, at 9 a.m. Friday, June 19.
While the Girls State Program is held in every state in the nation, North Carolina is the only state in the country to have had Girls State for 70 consecutive years, according to Commission Chair Kaye Hirst. The program is an Americanism project of the American Legion Auxiliary and an American Legion Auxiliary Unit approves all applications and nominates girls for the program.
Hirst notes that moving this program to Catawba College eight years ago has indeed strengthened the nationally recognized program. “The College’s support, along with that of the community, has been a real positive enhancement of our week,” she says.
This year, local girls from Rowan and Cabarrus counties will be among the participants. From Rowan County, students are sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Units in Salisbury, Faith and Landis. From Cabarrus County, students are sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Units in Concord, Kannapolis, Harrisburg, and Mt. Pleasant.
Two delegates from Tar Heel Girls State will be selected to participate in Girls Nation. The names of these two individuals will be announced during closing ceremonies of Tar Heel Girls State.
Notable former Girls State participants include Bernice Lerner and Ashley Moore, both of Salisbury, who were from Rowan County and elected governors at Tar Heel Girls State; as well as national figures who participated in Girls State programs in other locations like television personality Jane Pauley, former Texas Governor Ann Richards, former Miss U.S.A. Terri Utley, and the First Female Wing Commander in the U.S. Air Force Academy, Captain Michelle Johnson.