The American Legion Auxiliary hosted its 74th Texas Bluebonnet Girls State June 17-23, 2018, at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, TX. The purpose of Girls State is to educate young women in the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. It is a mythical 51st state where the participants, “citizens,” organize their own city, county and state governments; choose their own officials in accordance with regular election procedures; and learn the duties of the various city, county and state offices. In addition, the citizens introduce and debate their own bills in a mock legislature; establish their own platforms for mock political parties; and administer justice by their own law enforcement agencies and court systems.
Girls State citizens are made up of outstanding high school students from across the state. Eligibility is limited to any girl in her third year of any Texas senior high school whether public, private or parochial. Fundamental qualifications of all nominees are demonstrated accomplishments of leadership, citizenship and character in their schools and community. Past Girls State citizens include former Governor Ann Richards, former Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, former justice of the Third District Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Bea Ann Smith, 128th District Court Judge Courtney Burch-Arkeen.
At Girls State, the young ladies “learn by doing.” On Friday, June 22, 598 Girls State citizens and 90 staff members traveled to the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The citizens spent over two hours in mock legislative sessions debating bills in the actual Texas House and Senate chambers. This year, Orange County incoming seniors Alexis Sturrock and Jennifer Tsan represented Orangefield High School while Shelby Smith and Nyah Patel represented Little Cypress Mauriceville High School. All four represent the American Legion Auxiliary Unit #49 – Orange, TX.
Alexis campaigned and ran for state lieutenant governor in the Federal party, one of Girls State’s two political parties. She continued the race to a run off election, but did not win the majority of the votes. Alexis earned a position in the prestigious Girls State Zero Club and authored legislation.
Jennifer was an active participant at Girls State serving as campaign manager for the other candidates in her city. In her words, she “went around spreading their names” for potential votes and “asked others to listen and vote” for the ones she thought would best fulfill the duties in the positions for which they were running. During her time in the legislature, Jennifer said, “I was also an active listener. I listened to other people’s opinions and ideas during debate on certain bills.”
Shelby campaigned and won a spot on city council. As Place 4 Councilwoman, Shelby says, “Girls State offered me the opportunity to not only expand my knowledge and understanding of government, but also meet and work with amazing girls from every corner of Texas.”
Nyah campaigned for the coveted office of Texas Governor. Although she did not win, she was an involved member in the Senate as well as the National party, one of Girls State’s two political parties.
Recent Orangefield graduate Meara Patterson served as a Junior Counselor based on the recommendation of staff members from the 2017 session. Orangefield and University of Texas alumnae Kirsten Wolfford, citizen in 2013, served as a Senior Counselor. Orangefield ISD educator Bridget Luna Trawhon returned to Girls State in her role as Chair of the Gift Shop. ALA Unit #49 sponsored Bridget in 1989 to represent Little Cypress Mauriceville High School. According to the Bluebonnet Girls State website, “Some of the greatest benefits of Texas Bluebonnet Girls State are those gifts that come from forming new, life-long friendships, learning about civic responsibility, performing community service and becoming empowered young women. The empowerment that citizens gain from Texas Bluebonnet Girls State comes through community, education and achieving goals through practicing our American Democratic process.”
For more information on American Legion Auxiliary Texas Bluebonnet Girls State, see http://girls-state.org/ or contact the nearest American Legion Auxiliary Unit in your area.