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Girls State gives local teens feel of government

By Trina Trice

Christina Chebro of McDonough spent one week of her summer vacation doing something most high school students would dread – learning about the government.

Chebro, a rising senior at Henry County High School, was one of 11 Clayton and Henry county girls that attended the Georgia Girls State at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.

Girls State is part of civics and government education program sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary Department. Boys State, a similar program, is sponsored by the American Legion and took place at the same location.

"While government in itself is a dry (subject), the way Girls State is structured, the girls come out in such a way that they learn more in one week than they would in one semester (of regular school)," said Deana Rowe, assistant director of Girls State.

During the week, the female participants become the "citizens" of a fictitious 51st state where they receive instruction on the practical application of government and citizenship.

The girls learn to govern themselves by becoming city, county, or state government officials.

Each girl is assigned to a party – the Nationalists or the Federalists – and either to the Georgia Girls State House or Senate. As citizens of Girls State, each girl can submit a bill at Girls State.

The bill process was the highlight for Chebro.

"I learned how hard it was to pass bills through the House," she said. "It's hard to get everyone to agree on things."

Riverdale High School rising senior Janelle Ludaway ran for lieutenant governor, but lost the race. However, accepting defeat wasn't what she got out of the experience.

"I tried my best, but I didn't get it," she said. "It was good getting up there and making my speech, because at first I was nervous. But they started clapping and I wasn't nervous anymore."

To be eligible for Girls State, participants must have completed their junior year in high school, be interested in government and current events, have high moral character and leadership skills, and possess an above average academic record.

The names of the other participants from Clayton and Henry counties are as follows: Stephanie Rainbolt of Hampton; Hyo-Shin "Gabrielle" Cha, Kristen Brownlee, and Kathryn Landers of Jonesboro; Jennifer Welch of Locust Grove; Andrea Glynn, Fallon Binkney, and Rebekah Campbell of McDonough; and Kari Perryman of Stockbridge.