Saturday’s ALA EGS State of the State filled us with all the feels. Between the Governors address, candle ceremony, announcements of the
Samsung Scholarship winner,
ALA Girls Nation Senators,
and some staff who are silly and think that they are going to retire quietly without massive protest. It sure was a morning filled with gratitude. If we have a weepy Wednesday then Saturday quickly turned into “soaked Saturday” from all of the waterworks happening from a week’s worth of emotion.
This virtual session has been different all along, and we have tried really hard not to continually draw comparisons between the real life program and the virtual program out of respect to the participants. But as we sat on the zoom call at the conclusion of the program, when the pomp and circumstance had ended and the program was stripped down to just 300 or so people staring at each other through squares on a screen, each one lingering not ready to say goodbye, I couldn’t help but smile and draw yet another comparison.
The long goodbye.
The kiss and cry area at ALA EGS is often the location of some of the longest, most emotional goodbyes we can see. You can look around and see parents befuddled at why you would be this distraught leaving people you just met. I mean, it is not like it’s your first sleep away camp and you don’t have social media to connect with these people on. But the long goodbye is a beautiful representation of the transformation that occurs during this inspiring program.
This week transforms strangers into friends. Well, more than friends really- its a sisterhood. “From the outside looking in you can’t understand it and from the inside looking out you really can’t explain it.” It just is. The ups and downs, struggles, defeats and victories all create this bubble that produce bonds that will carry citizens and staff through a lifetime of experiences.
This weeks long goodbye wasn’t after room checks, or when buses arrived for boarding. It wasn’t after parents showed up, or when parents were called because they didn’t show up. Instead, it occurred in the awkward moments following the state of the state ceremony when people sat in their own houses connected virtually from zoom. When people weren’t quite ready to let go of the magic that was found in this week long bubble that is ALA Empire Girls State, they found comfort in the long goodbye.
This year’s long goodbye came in the form of informal conversation of thank you’s and goodbyes. It became about the “you don’t know how much I needed this” and the “the staff helped me do more than my comfort zone” moments. Yes. This year was different, but moments like the long goodbye and emotional farewells remind us that we did it. Collectively every ALA unit that sponsored a citizen, every citizen that showed up day in and day out, every staff member that wore a variety of hats, and every behind the scenes late night and early morning work session allowed for us to find the magic throughout the week that culminated in that awkward, emotional long goodbye.
And ya know what?
You’ve got this- after all it’s never really a goodbye……
and that is why we love (ALA) Girls State!
Til then, here are some of our wishes for this year’s 2021 ALA EGS citizens!