Three generations of one family represent Stacy at Girls State

Jeanne Aslakson, Teri Kaslow and Katya Kaslow pose in front of their hometown signage. Photo by Teri Kaslow
Jeanne Aslakson, Teri Kaslow and Katya Kaslow pose in front of their hometown signage.
Photo by Teri Kaslow

Young women from across the state of Minnesota gather annually in the Twin Cities to attend the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State program, first held in 1937. The mission of the Auxiliary and the goals of the event are to teach young women how government works, to develop leadership skills and to instill an appreciation for the rights enjoyed by American citizens.
For one family in Stacy, a trio of generations have had the good fortune, each within her own time, of one shared experience: representing the city of Stacy at Girls State.
Katya Kaslow is the third woman in three generations from her family to be chosen to attend Girls State. The 69th annual program was held June 7-12 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Katya was chosen to attend by the American Legion Auxiliary Peterson-Waller Post 312, of Stacy.
“A big thank you (to the Peterson-Waller Post); I am very grateful,” she said.
Katya’s mother, Teri, was chosen to attend in 1984 and Katya’s grandmother was chosen to attend in 1957.
The ladies in the Kaslow family spoke on a similar theme in describing their experience at Girls State.
Katya, who is a senior at North Branch High School, is currently trying to make a decision on college and likely will attend the College of St. Benedict, where she will major in forensic nursing or legal studies.
“I had no idea what I was going into at first,” Katya said.
She found herself immersed in a program that shows young people how politics and government work. The participants had to set up their own government, choose candidates, raise money, hold elections and then govern in a capable and prudent manner. Between these activities, the attendees toured the State Capitol and the Minnesota Judicial Center where they experienced a Law Day, charging, trying, arguing and adjudicating a criminal case. Katya was especially pleased with the process, as her legal team came out winners.
The most interesting event within the program, Katya said, was a question-and-answer session featuring an all-female panel representing law enforcement, including an FBI agent, a state court judge, and attorney Kathy Kimmel, Katya’s personal favorite program speaker.
Katya said Kimmel’s message to the Girls State 2015 attendees was, “Even though we’re in male-dominated fields, try you’re hardest; anything is possible.”
Teri was chosen to attend the program in 1984 when it was convened at St. Catherine’s University. Teri grew up in Stacy and remains a resident, active in the community and in the schools, while holding an executive position with Optum, a health care technology company where she is vice president of consumer analytics, insights and reporting.
“I was very proud of Stacy; it was really an honor to represent Stacy,” Teri said. Though she remembers the political aspects of the program well, she added, “Overall, it’s the leadership skills that I remember that I can take outside of government. It’s helped me in my professional life, whether it’s in civic activity (such as addressing the City Council) or in building and leading teams on the corporate side.”
The woman who started the family string of Girls State selections is Teri’s mother and Katya’s grandmother, Jeanne Aslakson. Aslakson also grew up in Stacy and was chosen by the Auxiliary to attend Girls State in 1957.
The program that year was held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Aslakson recalled going to some of the same activities as her granddaughter did this summer: touring the State Capitol and the Henry Sibley House. Aslakson, who is married to Mel Aslakson, the former mayor and council member, didn’t have designs on public office or corporate office following her participation in the program, but similar to her daughter’s sentiments, the program gave her a sense of civic pride and duty. Aslakson has brought that into years of serving the Stacy area through volunteer activities. Girls State gave her a foundation for public life, she said.
“Maybe it attracted you to Dad,” her daughter joked.
Consistent across three generations of Stacy women, the Girls State program has lived up to the mission of preparing young women “for their future roles as responsible adult citizens.”

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