Madeline Alden, from North Branch, shares report on what her experience in government was like
A group of local girls got a taste of how government works thanks to North Branch American Legion Auxiliary Unit 85.
The auxiliary sponsors Girls State each year at Bethel College where girls from the state of Minnesota meet for a week of living and learning government. The girls, who finished their junior year in high school last spring, run for city, county and state offices; vote for the candidates of their choice; listen to speakers on many aspects of government; and visit the state Capitol.
Attending from North Branch June 9-15 were Madeline Alden, Erin Engstrom, Jessica Petrik and Samantha Plante. Also attending from the area was Valerie Weekes, who was sponsored by the Stacy American Legion Auxiliary.
“One of the highlights is always hearing from the young woman who was elected Girls State governor, and this year was no exception,” North Branch auxiliary member Beverly Otterness said. “The young women who attend Girls State are truly exceptional women.”
For Alden, the experience was truly remarkable on both a personal and professional level. She wrote a report on her experiences, and parts of it are included below:
“When I drove into Bethel University Sunday with Erin, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. We were both scared, a bit out of our surroundings, but most of all looking forward to the adventure that lay ahead. I can honestly say from the moment I stepped into Lissner Hall I felt an abundance of welcoming…
“Signs hung over my head, each one reading a different city name. I looked around with anxious eyes trying to locate the city name written on my sheet. Shingobee, Shingobee… Little did I know this printed name would become my family for the following week. In fact, some of these girls would become what feels like lifelong friends…
“We attended assemblies to learn of politics and how women can be just as involved in government as men. As it was stated in our Girls State song “We are the future builders” as women of the United States of America. This concept made such a strong impact on me that I decided to write a poem and submit it to our daily newspaper there called the Moccasin. This was a highlight for me to be able to do this because I had the chance to feel published…
“Looking back at every speaker that I had the opportunity to listen to I think Elizabeth “Betty Wahl” Strohfus was my favorite. She told stories of herself flying in a variety of airplanes. She claimed it was “love at first flight.” I had the chance to take a picture with this cute little lady who was brave enough to do what men only dared to do…
“Each citizen had a chance to run for a spot in government. I learned of the three different levels: city, county and state. Each one has a duty in making our Girls State run smoothly. The day before city elections the mayor of Buffalo Lake came and spoke to us. She talked about her responsibilities as mayor and how it was one of her highest moments in life. Her speech inspired me to want to run. I ended up doing just that and getting voted in!
“Being mayor of the city of Shingobee really was a very rewarding experience. I got to run the city meetings and help develop city laws. I even got to experience taking the oath of office.
“Campaigning was really a fun process. I thought at city and county levels it was fun, but boy was I in for a treat after I saw the state general elections campaigning. I was in the Nationalist party and got picked to help make a video for their campaign. We decided to make a spoof off of the movie Mean Girls. It was one of the many highlights of my week there, especially because I got to take part in such an important part in making the campaign happen.
“I felt so privileged when I got to vote in our mock voting booths. It was good practice for my future voting skills. I most certainly know that when I turn 18 I will be certain to be involved at every election. What a privilege it is to be given the right to vote.
Throughout this whole Girls State experience I had made many friends, learned new songs, obtained valuable political knowledge, and listened to several speakers and their experiences. This all prepared me for our trip to the Capitol. If I could describe it in one word it would be breathtaking. The golden horses sat so proudly on the top of its exquisite structure, columns high as the eye could see with beautiful marble stairs. We also got to walk over to the judicial building and conduct a mock trial. While speaking my opening statement as a lawyer I felt so powerful. It really made me see the importance of the occupation.
Although the week I had was so life changing, all good things must come to an end. Saturday when we all had to leave was the saddest day of the week. Tears were shed and hugs and cell phone numbers were exchanged. Nobody wanted to think that it was goodbye forever, so instead of saying the sorrow filled word such as that, “See you later” was said in its place. I can’t believe how much one can gain in knowledge and friendship in just one week. I met so many amazing young ladies from literally every corner of Minnesota…
“Talent busted from every finger tip of the people I shared my amazing week with. They really were the best of the best. I have also come to realize that we truly are so blessed to live in America, land of the free. Our laws and government officials keep our state and country on the right path. So whether you’re from small town Stacy or big city St. Paul or Minneapolis, we all follow the same rules and push for the same thing, our freedom. As long as Old Glory’s red, white and blue colors ripple through the air I will forever be a proud American Girls State graduate.”