ELKINS, W.Va. – Rhododendron Girls State is sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary and is focused on teaching high school girls about Americanism, citizenship, and leadership. Students who attend take classes on life skills such as money handling and college prep and are given the opportunity to participate in mock government elections.
“I’ve been involved for more than three decades and I truly believe that this is one of the finest programs in the country that teaches young women leadership skills, it provides a network like none other and it focuses on the patriotisms so that we can remember the sacrifices our veterans made and make sure that all these young women understand that the freedoms we have were not free,” said assistant director Rosemary Thomas.
On the first day of the program, students attended a speech from the Secretary of State’s office about women receiving the right to vote and why it is important to remember our history.
“He will be talking with them about women’s suffrage and the fact that we are now celebrating the 100th anniversary of that legislation and how important it is that 100 years has passed, but women still need to exercise that right to vote so that their voice can be heard,” said Thomas.
While the girls attending are learning valuable information about government and higher education, Girls State also provides a chance for students to create long-lasting relationships.
“The friendships that we’ve made and the experience that we get in learning everything. It’s a lot easier to make friends here than in your small towns that we’re all from,” said Girls State citizen Kayla Corley.
“Everyone talks about the friendships and the bonds that you make and how people still have these friendships years down the road and I hope I get one of those,” said Hope Rogers, fellow Girls State citizen.
Program directors say they want all attendees to leave the program feeling empowered and prepared to pursue their goals.
“I hope they take a level of confidence with them. Not only for their public speaking, but that the world is truly theirs and that they can do anything they want, they can try anything they want. Their professional opportunities are limitless,” said Thomas.
Girls State is held each year and incoming high school seniors can register online.