Colchester High School student Hanna Orselet, having been selected by her peers from among many other 2012 American Legion Auxiliary Green Mountain Girls State participants, represented Vermont at the Girls Nation event in Washington, DC in July … and while she was there, she visited with President Barack Obama.
“This is an amazing opportunity that all junior girls in Vermont should be applying for,” Hanna said. “We are so fortunate to live in a small state where programs like these are less competitive. Many states had hundreds of girls at their program—when we had around ninety. This not only increases your chances of making it to the national program, but it gives a more personalized experience that I believe gives you a unique opportunity to take more out of it.”
Hanna said she was particularly inspired to further investigate the political process by Caroline Bright, a former Girls State participant and recent St. Michael’s College graduate who has announced her candidacy for the Vermont State Senate. In preparation for Girls Nation, Hanna wrote a bill about the ability of international students studying STEM-related subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the United States to obtain permanent residence upon graduation.
Dating back to 1937, Girls State—which also has its counterpart, Boys State—is a summer leadership and citizenship program for high school students between their junior and senior years. Both Girls State and Boys State programs are sponsored by the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, and every state in the country with the exception of Hawaii participates. Girls State is designed to provide young women with insight and experience into the workings of government, and as such, students in the program elect representatives and engage in model state legislatures to debate issues and pass bills. This year’s 2012 American Legion Auxiliary Green Mountain Girls State was held from June 17–21 at Vermont Technical College.
Two girls from each Girls State program are selected to attend Girls Nation—a week-long, similar program on a grander scale that is held in Washington, DC. Girls Nation generally includes a day on Capitol Hill, visits to national monuments, a visit to the White House, and a meeting with the president. Some of the program’s overall goals include educating the participants about the country’s system of government and its traditions, developing leadership, and instilling a desire in young people to maintain governmental processes.
Some well-known alumni of the Boys and Girls State programs include Neil Armstrong, Bill Clinton, Michael Jordan, Janet Napolitano, Michelle Obama, George Pataki, Harry Reid, former Texas governor Anne Richards, and many others.
“Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way,” Hanna encourages. “You never know what you’re getting yourself into, but I guarantee the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Opportunities like these are what you make of them. If I hadn’t tried my hardest to dive in head first at Girls State, there’s no way I would have made it to Washington, DC with a highly regarded national program such as Girls Nation.”
Hanna expresses particular appreciation for the American Legion Auxiliary and the Colchester American Legion Post #91 for funding this opportunity and making it possible.
In 1963, a Boys Nation representative met with President Kennedy … and later went on to become president himself.
Might we have a future United States president among us? Here’s that picture again:
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