One of the first things I learned about Missouri Girls State was there was a lot of lines.
Arriving five minutes before check-in started did not keep me from standing in the registration line for 30 minutes in the Warrensburg heat, followed by more lines inside and then yes, even more lines when trying to get into Ellis residence hall.
One of the wonderful aspects of Ellis Hall is there are no elevators. My mother and I misread directions and lugged around five pieces of luggage up two flights of stairs and all around the second floor until we finally found my dormroom. With little time to relax before the first activities of the week began, I tried to meet some people in the rooms nearby and in my city. Delegates are divided up into seven counties, and within each county there are three cities, totaling to 21 cities with each containing about 40 girls.
Trying to make friends in a crowd of 800 people was a lot like speed-dating, with the most loud, enthusiastic girls quickly becoming popular and in better positions for being elected to offices. Since I tend to be more introverted, the only close friends I really had were my two roommates. Speaking of roommates, whose idea was it to have three 17- year-old girls share a small dorm room and have five girls share a bathroom, which features a toilet leak and one roll of toilet paper for six days? It was a definitely a struggle to coordinate shower schedules during the week, and it was no surprise to wake up in the middle of the night and find someone still showering.
I first heard about Missouri Girls State in 2016 when attending the Missouri Rotary Youth Leadership Award Academy where many girls said they planned to attend Missouri Girls State the following summer.
After 2017 graduate Adi Johnson told me how much fun she had the summer before her senior year, I decided to give it a shot and apply. History has always been one of my favorite subjects in school, but whatever knowledge I’d thought I’d had of the United States government was nothing compared to everyone else when I arrived at Missouri Girls State. I’m pretty sure they could all recite the Articles of Confederation from memory, when all I could remember was that they once existed (sorry, U.S. history teacher Tim Cashel).
I was skeptical how we were supposed to create an entire state government system in a week, but I learned pretty quickly that it would be possible because we were to have our first city elections that night.
Before I arrived, I had it all planned out- I was going to write for the newspaper, the Missouri Girls State Gazette, take some photos and maybe be in a broadcast or two.
When I arrived, however, I realized only two girls per city could write for the paper and only one girl per city could participate in the broadcasts. I wasn’t picked for either; only about five hours into day one of six, my entire week had gone to pieces.
As the week went on, though, it got much better. We had several notable guest speakers including United States Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, Missouri auditor Nicole Galloway, Missouri first lady Sheena Greitens, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens and members of the Missouri House of Representatives and Highway Patrol.
I remember being especially inspired by Galloway, who talked to us about she overcome sexism when attending the Missouri University of Science and Technology for her degrees in Applied Mathematics and Economics. Governor Greitens discussed his time as a Navy SEAL and his experiences that have shaped his policies today.
On a whim I decided to sign up for the choir. Now I haven’t taken a choir class since sixth grade, so it was a bit of a shock for my mother when she saw me singing in the front row of the alto section at Inauguration on Friday. I also served on my party’s state convention committee, organizing speech length limits and assigning exact durations for each event that would occur during the convention. It was the perfect job for me to make sure everything was inline and would run smoothly.
At the end of the week, everyone was so sad to leave, and I was too- but I was also ready to go home and sleep. An entire week of 6:30 a.m.- midnight activities had worn me out, and I was excited to be able to once again wear clothes that reflected the outside temperature. Since most of the buildings were exceptionally cold, especially Hendricks Hall, the main location for the three-hour assemblies and guest speakers, I had pretty much been wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt all week.
I truly believe that I was surrounded by the future leaders of the United States government when I was at Missouri Girls State, and more than anything, I really miss singing the Girls State song several times per day, which constantly reminded us of our potential – “We are up and coming, progressive, kind and strong. And to our own Girls State, we proudly sing our song.”
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