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Museum Report For 04/27/2016 – Girls State

April 27th, 2016 by

DSC_0983As the end of the traditional school year, and the beginning of summer nears, my thoughts always go back to my visit to Girls’ State in the summer before my senior year in high school.

Being selected to attend Girls State and represent your school was “a big deal” then and quite an honor.  The honor came with a lot of pride (and some poor sportsmanship from some students who weren’t eligible to attend).  We all wanted to go – desperately!  I am saddened by the knowledge that today not many students really want to attend.  That’s a shame because it is such a unique experience.  I’d encourage all our Ashley and Drew counties’ young ladies to attend, if possible.

So what is Girls State? Arkansas Girls State is a summer program of education that has been sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of Arkansas since 1942 to provide training for Arkansas girls in the fundamental aspects of citizenship and practical government. The purpose of Arkansas Girls State is to educate young women of high school age in the duties, privileges, and responsibilities of American citizenship and to provide an opportunity for them to participate in the actual functioning of their government.

The National American Legion Auxiliary, which had established a Boys State program in 1935, first sponsored Girls State in 1937–38, As of 2014, fifty-one such state departments have such a program. More than 25,000 high school students participate annually. The “Girls State” is an invented “state” over which the participants must provide governmental leadership. The entire program is non-partisan in nature, with the political parties of Girls State (Nationalist and Federalist) corresponding to no current American parties. As delegates, the girls elect their own officials, organize their own legislature, and have official visits to their respective counterparts at the Arkansas State Capitol.

The first session of Arkansas Girls State in 1942 was held at Arkansas State Teachers College (now UCA in Conway) with 104 girls in attendance.   The next two sessions were held at the Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock.  The 1945 session of Arkansas Girls State was canceled because of World War II and its transportation problems and rationing of needed goods. In 1946 and 1947, the sessions were again held at the Arkansas School for the Deaf.  In 1948 the Girls State sessions were held at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, where they remained until 1974.  Enrollment reached the 1,000mark in 1968.

At Camp Robinson, the girls were housed in small huts and, later, barracks (like those on M.AS.H.).  They shared common showers and latrines and fought the heat and mosquitoes.  Yet all those “inconveniences” were part of the adventure and most wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  I also remember days with early revelry and vespers in the evenings with singing – especially “Kum Bah Yah”.

For three years starting in 1975, Arkansas Girls State was held again at the University of Central Arkansas. In 1977, Claudia Kuykendall, who had been the director of Arkansas Girls State since 1944, retired. Junanne Reynolds Brown became director in 1978, and Girls State moved to Ouachita Baptist University at Arkadelphia.  Mrs. Junanne Brown stepped down as director in 1989, and Ruth Teal was appointed director, serving for two years. Pam Talbert became director in 1992 and served for five years.

In 1991, Arkansas Girls State moved to Harding University in Searcy, which remains its present location, as of 2014. Angela Uekman was appointed director in 1997 and served for ten years. Charlotte Wilson was appointed director in 2007.  Arkansas Girls State is the second-largest Girls State program in the nation.

I am proud to have been a Girls-Stater and still am today.  I still have my T-shirt and cute little beanie from many years ago.  Since I have been in the Legislature I have had the privilege of “helping out” for two days each summer at Girls State and I have loved every minute of it!    To be surrounded by all those right young faces is true happiness for me.

Last week I noticed Hamburg High listed their Girl Staters and Boy Staters for this summer.  Congratulations to each and all of you!  I hope you have a great time and enjoy your experience as much as I did mine many moons ago.  I look forward to seeing our Ashley and Drew counties’ girls there because I’ll be there June 1st and 2nd with my beanie and memories and song.  At Girls State you’ll make good memories to last your lifetime.

Come if you get the opportunity!!  Then we’ll all be from Girls State, “the best state in the land”.  I hope to see as many of you as possible!

 

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