Lines and lines of girls in neon shirts sway with their arms around each other as the echoes of off-key, out of tune singing fill the room. The tempo of the song progressively gets quicker and quicker until each girl can barely get the lyrics out fast enough, and even if they manage that, what they’re singing is completely unintelligible over their laughing and clapping.

What I just described is a typical morning after breakfast at Girls State, a program run by the American Legion Auxiliary in every state in the country. But it wasn’t all just singing the Girls State song with gusto. Created for girls who have completed their junior year of high school, attendees learn about politics and government and hear from guest speakers about law, economics, and more. They also go through the process of electing officials for all levels of state government, including a House of Representatives and Senate, town officials, and what is known as Constitutional Government.

Although formatted as a week long stay-away program that takes place in every individual state in normal years, Massachusetts was one of the only programs to be hosted in person for the year of 2021, and I was lucky enough to attend. We stayed all week in the dorms of Stonehill College, eating, sleeping, and breathing government and campaigning. I loved it.

I was a little nervous going in because I watched the documentary done on Texas Boys State and noticed the cutthroat culture almost immediately. But luckily, the environment I found at MA Girls State was entirely the opposite. I had an amazing time and met amazing people, all of whom were supportive of my aspirations both for Girls State and beyond. It was the backing of my counselor and newfound friends that encouraged me to run for the mock House of Representatives, and I was elected. Through that position, I was able to legislate on topics ranging from English Language Learner curricula in public schools to the Massachusetts minimum wage.

I found the experience an invaluable teacher of the inner workings of government, and it only served to further solidify my passion for working in government and public service in the future. To any young women out there considering pursuing anything of the sort, I would definitely recommend looking into this program in your state.

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