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Get to know the people who make it all happen!
Happy Fourth of July!
Today everyone was excited to be celebrating the holiday with their families and with their fellow citizens of virtual ALA Empire Girls State. We had a timely discussion about proper flag folding and etiquette and some great ideas were shared about how to educate others on these topics. The girls also noted that they were excited to be able to watch Hamilton on Disney+ given the historical events that it portrays and the significance of this time of year in American history.
Overall, our time today was spent reflecting on what this holiday means to each of us individually and to the nation as a whole, and I think everyone felt a bit more thankful for the sacrifices that others have made to create and protect this country we call home.
Sr. Counselor Kaylee Mathews
On Tuesday and Thursday, the citizens had the opportunity to interact with each other, the staff and the multi-talented political advisors in our live Google Meets. These sessions gave everyone an opportunity to say hi, share stories about their hometowns and get an overview of Empire Girls State. We discussed how EGS works, which issues affected the different counties and EGS as a whole, Americanism, elections, public policy, why political participation is important and how and why a person should get involved in local issues. The citizens engaged in some creative problem-solving and made insightful applications to “real-world” problems.
Your Groovy Political Instructor
The citizens were greeted by our National President Nicole Clapp this morning and this afternoon our political advisor, Cecilia, held a Google meet to allow the citizens to ask questions, clarify items and allow the citizens to exchange thoughts.
There was a citizen that started a conversation about how she could still provide a service to veterans even though she is not attending ALA EGS in person. She was very interested in creating poppies to distribute to Veterans with a personal card attached to thank a Veteran for their service. The ALA EGS staff referred her to the Americanism section and she loved the idea of including pocket flags as well.
The citizens were discussing a lot today the role they can play in politics even though they are still not of legal age to vote. Several ideas were exchanged that excited the citizens to know that they do have a voice and their voice can be powerful. They also learned that they could work on campaigns.
It is exciting to see the enthusiasm these ladies have about learning more about how our government is run. One citizen is quoted as saying” thank EGS for teaching me something new I didn’t know today”. She learned that there is a website where the public can view all bills that are being presented to congress.
Looking forward to what excitement the upcoming day may bring.
In Section A today the girls met a few new faces who posted for the first time! Everyone is really excited to have the opportunity to have a virtual experience with ALA Empire Girls State. They discussed committee topics, elections and Girls Nation – specifically the differences we will see in the in person versus virtual sessions. Celia, our Political Advisor also set up an opportunity for the girls to join a discussion tomorrow and discuss the program in a Google Meet room.
Section B jumped right back into some discussions started yesterday, wasting no time! The girls are passionate about US issues and found ways to bring their existing knowledge to those mythical issues posed in their EGS counties. From unemployment in Angelou County to Keller County income, the citizens dove deep into how to solve these problems. There was a significant debate about the benefits and drawbacks of supporting small businesses to help the economy. Celia, our Political Advisor also set up an opportunity for the girls to join a discussion this afternoon and additional one tomorrow to discuss the program in a Google Meet room.
If Day 1 of the ALA EGS virtual session were a word, it would be: Enthusiasm.
The second that the classroom modules were posted, the comments and questions began. The day was spent figuring out how to access all of the information, creating learning plans and strategies with the help of the provided Program Guide, and beginning our discussions of the material.
Questions were asked about the formation of political parties within the context of ALA EGS. The participants were excited to learn that, while our political parties of Federalist and Nationalist have names that can be associated in the “real world” to governmental ideologies, the Feds and Nats of ALA EGS are blank canvases with which the citizens can decide whatever political ideologies represent them best. Because of that, they began discussing which types of issues would be most important to them to have incorporated into a Nat or Fed platform.
Many have already begun asking how they can further support both the American Legion Auxiliary and the Empire Girls State program beyond these two weeks of participation. Plenty of resources for eligibility and applying are being relayed, so here’s to many new prospective ALA members and proud ALA EGS Alumnae!
It bears repeating, the enthusiasm so far is incredible. I can’t wait to see what else will come in the next two weeks as they have more time to dig into all of the content within the ALA EGS virtual session classroom.
(There were no tomatoes in my lunch today – I had pancakes for lunch.)
Flashback Photo from Tomato Watch 2018
Signing off from Day 1
Sr Counselor Steph Fallon
The American Legion Auxiliary provides many opportunities for young people. One such opportunity is the Junior Auxiliary. There are ways to be involved both locally, with others in your county at both the county and department level. I have held several county positions, one was Junior County and at the Department(state) level, I am the current Department Honorary Junior President. This means I campaigned and ran for office just like we have done at the American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State to secure this position. During this year, I have had the opportunity to run several meetings where Juniors have worked on projects supporting veterans and military families. The American Legion Auxiliary is an organization that not only helps the veterans, but their families as well. Everyone volunteers to raise money in order to fund the service, programs and activities that we provide for veterans and their families. But it doesn’t stop at fundraising, there are many opportunities to volunteer at events, and donate materials or services.
Another opportunity the American Legion Auxiliary gives young women is the American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State program. At ALA EGS, I have met a lot of supportive people and made many new friends. On the very first day, we jumped into activities like electing party leaders and senators, holding county elections, and deciding which committee we wanted to serve on. The flag ceremony taught us to respect the flag, how to handle it properly, and what it stands for. We also enjoyed our time on our dorm floors, with our ALA Girls State county, and of course the dining hall! There was a selection of different foods to choose from at breakfast and dinner, and for late night food we had a place called Trax. There was also a little store next to Trax.
The American Legion provides many opportunities, and I am very glad I have had the chance to hold office and to attend American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State. I urge you to get involved with the American Legion Auxiliary locally. There are so many opportunities to give back to your community, support military families, and honor our veterans. Channel the sense of pride and Americanism instilled in you during your week at ALA Empire Girls State and use it help others. Consider getting involved with the American Legion Auxiliary either as a member or as a volunteer and know that together we do make a difference.
2018 American Legion Auxiliary Department of New York Junior President
2018 American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State Citizen, O’Connor County
The last few days have reminded me about my favorite parts of The American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State program. They are the losses, the failures, and the train wrecks. While initially this might seem cruel, these losses remind me of my time at the American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State Program. When I finished my week as a citizen, my dad thanked the American Legion Auxiliary for “picking up where he left off, and taking me where he couldn’t take me.” That’s why I came back as a counselor. So that I could pick up where these girls’ parents left off. They have raised them to be strong, intelligent, amazing, young women (with a long list of qualifications!) but what parents often can’t do is show them failure, push them to exhaustion and make them crash and burn.
Girls State is thus far the only place I’ve seen our young women learn this lesson consistently and effectively every year. The girls run against each other and find out that, unlike their hometowns, where they are the shoe-in to win every time, they have to find a way to stand out and raise the bar. If they don’t, they lose, and many of these girls aren’t used to losing. They finally find out who they really are, what is at their core, what their insecurities are. Then, they break through those barriers and learn that they can still win and find success, not by hiding their perceived flaws as they have in their hometowns, but by admitting and embracing them. This is what makes them unique and vulnerable. Sure, sometimes they still lose the election. But they gain self-empowerment by taking that step. The world hurts people sometimes and the sooner we learn to get up, dust ourselves off, and push forward, the stronger we are. Better yet, the sooner we learn to identify when someone else needs help getting back on their feet, the stronger our community becomes.
You can see it in the girls – a creeping sense of “on the verge of something awe-inspiring.” They can’t quite see it in themselves, and they probably won’t recognize it for years, but it’s there. It’ll be there when they sit at college graduation, when they officially move out, when they get their first big-girl job, and forever. More importantly, it will be there when they fail a class, get their heart broken, or get fired. When they fail they will know themselves, they will hurt and cry and wish it hadn’t happened. But what they won’t do is give up. They will not shut down, they will not crumble. They will get up, dust themselves off, and push on. Why? Because American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State picked up where their families left off and taught them how to fail. This is the strength that will ultimately allow them to succeed over and over in life.
American Legion Auxiliary Member
ALA Empire Girls State Senior Counselor
2011 Federalist Party Leader
2011 ALA Girls Nation Senator