At Evergreen Girls State, participants “learn by doing.”
The Americanism and government training program, sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, is designed for girls who have just completed their junior year of high school. Participants live together as self-governing citizens, and learn about the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.
Washougal High School student Keira Stogin recently attended the event held at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, after being nominated by American Legion Cape Horn Auxiliary Unit 122. Post 122 and its auxiliary are part of the Fifth District, which includes Evergreen Girls State in its national programs.
A self-described “goofball,” who loves theater and performing, Stogin at first wasn’t sure if a program focused on politics would be the right fit. She later decided, however, that it would be an opportunity to broaden her horizons.
“I watched as many episodes of Parks and Recreation as I could, because it is all about small government, and a lot of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update features to brush up on current events,” she said of her efforts to prepare for Girls State. “Overall, I guess it was my curiosity mixed with my love of meeting new people and doing new things that made me save up the entrance fee and get that application turned in.”
According to Liz Stockton, Fifth District Girls State chairwoman, through the program participants gain a better understanding of the functions of government and their responsibilities as citizens.
During the course of seven days, the girls are divided into 12 cities, four counties and two political parties. There is also a state legislature along with the judicial branch of state government.
Each citizen is assigned to a city and political party (either Nationalist of Federalist). Parties are organized at city precinct level and go through county and state conventions.
Primary and general elections are held. Two girls are elected as U.S. senators to represent the Girls Nation program in Washington D.C., which is held July 25 through Aug. 1. These senators and the governor have additional responsibilities.
Stogin was elected governor. Her upcoming responsibilities will include attending functions with her family, courtesy of the Washington State Auxiliary, at the American Legion Convention in Spokane. During the July 14 through 19 event she will open one of the sessions and be recognized at the state banquet.
Stogin will also visit other local auxiliary units, as time permits, during the year.
“We haven’t had a governor elected from the Fifth District in 27 years,” Stockton said. “This is quite an event for the auxiliary. The district sent 10 girls to this year’s program, also significant for Southwest Washington units.”
Stogin is thankful for the unique learning opportunity Girls State provided. She described it as a “life-changing experience,” where she learned about the many facets of government and politics, met many intelligent young women, and maybe most importantly discovered her value as a person.
“I learned that everyone has value and each individual must be rated as a person,” she said. “If we look at political candidates as a brain and not a body, then we can get somewhere. If we vote for a person rather than a gender, then it becomes easier to decide who deserves our vote.”
Stogin will be a senior at WHS in the fall, and is also a Clark College Running Start student. When she graduates in June 2016 she will have earned an associate’s degree and a high school diploma.
At WHS, Stogin was freshman class president (2012-13) and Drama Club president (2014-15). She plays on the varsity softball team.
Stogin also works in the Washburn Performing Arts Center, where she assists visiting theater companies. Her outside activities include serving as a counselor at Camp Windy Hill, and working part-time at Head 2 Toe salon and at a local horse barn.
After high school, Stogin plans to attend Portland State University to earn a degree in theater arts, with an emphasis in performance. As a direct result of her Girls State experience, she has decided to minor in political studies.
Her future goals are to “create” and always think outside the box.
“I want to make an impact in the world of film, TV and the media,” she said. “Those outlets are really what controls how people act, think and talk.”