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By Shavonne Potts and Tori Jarrell
Salisbury PostAbout 300 girls from high schools around the state descended upon Catawba College for a week of campaigning.
The girls were participating in the 68th Tar Heel Girls State workshop.
The weeklong workshops were sponsored by the North Carolina American Legion Auxiliary.
Girls State is a statewide competition where rising high school seniors elect leaders, build a state government and practice legislative procedures. The girls who are selected to attend are required to be in the top third of their class and must be rising seniors.
When girls arrived at Catawba on Sunday, they were alphabetically divided into “cities.” Throughout the week, they elected officials and particiapted in debates on topics such as education, the environment and health insurance.
Sea Heno, 19, of Salisbury, said as a staff member and former Girls State participant, she wants them to get the best out of this experience. She wants the girls to enjoy the program and go back with more knowledge.
Heno also wants the girls to have fun and make new friends.
“I enjoy watching the girls and seeing as they grow throughout the week,” she said.
Heno hopes the girls take away from the experience that “everything starts with just a single citizen.”
Katie DiIanni, 17, of Kernersville, was one of those attendees.
“I learned the importance of patriotism and how important veterans are,” DiIanni said.
She said she also learned that conducting city government is not easy.
“Most people don’t know how hard it is. It’s not as easy as you think,” DiIanni said.
She said she feels like she’s making decisions that affect a real government.
What she likes about Girls State, she said, is that it gives some girls the confidence they didn’t arrive with.
“You learn not to be another face in the crowd,” DiIanni said.
Program Director Julie Cooper Head explained that once the leaders are elected, the girls run the show.
Head, who attended her first Girls State at Catawba, is in her 10th session as program director.
She said the top issues the girls discuss fall into education as well as health issues.
The girls all seemed very enthusiastic about their experiences, especially since they were required to wear uniforms for the first time in competition history.
“The uniforms make life easier, just having to choose a red or blue shirt, and not having to wake up in the morning and figure out what to wear that day,” said Jessica Crawford, a participant from Charlotte.
“I love the social aspect. You make tons of friends,” she added.
Participants typically wear professional dress clothes for each session and formal wear for the end of the program banquet.
Courtney Satterwhite, 17, of Oxford, said she also enjoyed meeting new people at Girls State.
“You have lifelong friends here,” she said.
“Girls State is different, but good. It made me decide that I definitely want to go into politics,” Medha Surampudy said.
At the end of the week, two girls will be chosen to represent the Tar Heel state in July for Girls Nation. Girls Nation is held in Washington, D.C., and offers hands-on experience of a federal government training session.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.

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