When high school students are subjected to political information, facts often prove that their level of personal involvement drastically increases.
Lauren Craddock and Jenna Bostic, both rising Craig County High seniors, attended Virginia’s American Legion Auxiliary Girl’s State at Longwood University from June 16-22. They were among 20,000 other participants nationwide who competed.
The event’s theme was “Leadership – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”
Girl’s State is a program of the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA), the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization.
It was founded in 1937 to give young women nationwide the opportunity to learn firsthand how their state and local governments work. The main objective is to help “young citizens realize that they are an essential part of their government and are responsible for its character and success.”
“Learning by doing” is the keynote to success in the program.
Many civic clubs, school groups, community businesses longtime locals annually help to sponsor the program.
The girls (delegates) live in dorms for the week, and are assigned to one of 14 “cities,” comprised of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The ALA provides a “nonpartisan environment for young women to understand the issues that face the country and develop their own views, while being engaged in leadership and citizenship activities.”
Seven words are used to describe the seven days of Girl’s State: Nation, Pride, Democracy, Patriotism, Growth, Inspiration, Friendship and Empowerment.
To qualify, a student must have finished their junior year of high school and be a student with good character and good grades. They also have to answer questions about what it means to be patriotic.
Craddock first heard of Girl’s State from her oldest sister, Grace. “She knew some girls who had gone from her class and told me it would be a great opportunity for me,” she said.
Bostic’s parents suggested to her that it would be a great opportunity.
“I was told the school hadn’t planned on sending anyone this year, but Jenna and I both expressed interest and our moms looked into it,” said Craddock who added that her interest in politics has increased significantly in recent months. She looks forward to voting for the first-time next year.
“I looked up Girl’s State on the internet and thought it looked like an exciting opportunity,” she said. “I also found out that my grandfather, who is a 30-year Army and Vietnam Veteran, actually attended Boy’s State when he was a teenager.”
School Counselor Evelyn Steege helped organize the donors and the trip.
Craddock met many girls who also have parents in the military. “It helped me be more grateful for our military and those who choose to serve our country and sacrifices they make for our freedom,” she said.
Craddock and Bostic now encourage other girls to attend Girl’s State.
“It was a great way to learn about other people’s opinions and perspectives on current issues facing our society. I really enjoyed listening to the political campaigns and making friends with other girls throughout Virginia,” Craddock said.
“You will learn a lot of valuable things about how local and state governments are formed and how they work,” said Bostic before adding, ”the most important thing I learned is how people go through the process of being eliminated down to two people to run for state positions.”
As parents, Mary and Trevor Craddock are grateful to the donors and people who assisted the girls in making their experience possible.
“It is wonderful that people in the community recognize the importance of supporting our young people. Girl’s State is a great way for young women to see they can become leaders. It teaches them skills they can carry with them throughout their lives,” Mary Craddock said.
She added, “I believe it’s also a program that instills patriotism and a pride in living in America. They see firsthand how a democracy works and shows them they can bring change by participating in their government, be it at the local, state or national level. Trevor and I are honored Lauren was able to go and be a part of this 73-year tradition.”
“I really appreciate all the people who donated money for Jenna and I to go. Without their generosity, we may not have been able to be a part of this amazing opportunity,” Lauren said.
Both said that they were glad they attended Girl’s State in part because they made “friendships that will last a lifetime.”