Catawba College to host Girls State June 15-21
For the seventh consecutive year, Catawba College will host Tar Heel Girls State June 15-21. Close to 300 girls from across North Carolina, all high school juniors who are academically in the top third of their class, will attend the 69th annual, weeklong session, sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of North Carolina.
Tar Heel Girls State is run by seven auxiliary members from across N.C. who volunteer their time. Two of those auxiliary members will mark their 21st year with the program during the weeklong session, including chair of the commission Kaye Brown Hirst of Salisbury, and program director Julie Cooper Head of Valdese. Other local individuals involved on staff include Dr. Karl Hales, parliamentarian; Mary Jane Thompson, house mother; Tina Brown, music director; and Fran Simpson, speaker.
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 government 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.
Although 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 69 consecutive years, according to 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.
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 Mount 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.