Tar Heel Girls State returns to Catawba on Sunday

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - June 15-21 will be the 75th consecutive year of Tar Heel Girls State, and for the thirteenth year, Catawba College will host the weeklong session.

At the annual event, sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of North Carolina, several hundred girls from across North Carolina, all high school juniors who are academically in the top third of their class, will participate.

The Girls State program is a weeklong practical study of the structure and operation of North Carolina State Government.  In a non-partisan atmosphere, participants take a "hands-on" approach to learning how state and local governments function.  Citizens, as the participants are known, develop an understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship by creating and living under their own mock government.

During the week, citizens are grouped into cities as they organize their own local government, elect officers, prepare a city charter and conduct city activities.  Citizens also assume the role of a senator, representative or lobbyist to research and write bills and resolutions for the Girls State Legislature.

Each citizen is also a member of a fictitious political party which will develop a party platform, engineer campaigns for party candidates and ultimately elect a slate of officers to govern Tar Heel Girls State.  Parliamentary procedure is used to conduct all meetings.

Again this year, the session will be run by Auxiliary members from across the state who volunteer their time. Two of these Auxiliary members, Chair of the Commission Kaye Brown Hirst of Salisbury and Program Director Julie Cooper of Valdese, will be participating for their 27th year with the program. Other local individuals involved on staff include Mary Jane Thompson, house mother; Dr. Phillip Burgess, music director; Rena Ogle, city counselor; Fran Simpson, providing a workshop; Anita Overstreet, city counselor.

"The citizens have a wonderful opportunity during the week to become involved and learn the rules of civic engagement," Hirst said.  "These young women will be our leaders soon, and they will gain valuable experiences in leadership that will help shape and guide them as they become community, state and national leaders in the following years."

The Honorable District Court Judge Beth Dixon of Rowan County will swear in the girls as Girls State citizens on the evening of Sunday, June 15. Guest speakers scheduled for the 2014 Tar Heel Girls State session, all of whom will speak in Keppel Auditorium of the Robertson College-Community Center, include Catherine Johnson from Davidson County Family Services; Major Diana Stumpf from the National Guard Headquarter in Raleigh with Recruiting Battalion; Janet Ward Black, an attorney and former Miss N.C.; and Rachel Hamm, 2013 Tar Heel Girls State Governor.

While the Girls State Program is held in every state in the nation, North Carolina is the only state in the country to have had Girls State for 75 consecutive years, according to Commission Chair Kaye Hirst.  The program is an Americanism project of the American Legion Auxiliary and an American Legion Auxiliary Unit approves all applications and nominates girls for the program.

Hirst reiterated that moving the program to Catawba College helped strengthened the nationally recognized program thanks in part to the strong support from the local community.

Local girls from Rowan and Cabarrus counties will be among the participants.  From Rowan County, students are sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Units in Salisbury, Faith, West Rowan and Landis. From Cabarrus County, students are sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Units in Concord, Kannapolis, Harrisburg, and Mt. Pleasant.  From Stanly County, they are sponsored by the unit in Albemarle.

Two delegates from Tar Heel Girls State will be selected to participate in Girls Nation. The names of these two individuals will be announced during closing ceremonies of Tar Heel Girls State.

Notable former Girls State participants include Ashley Moore and the late Bernice Lerner, both of Salisbury, who were from Rowan County and elected governors at Tar Heel Girls State; as well as national figures who participated in Girls State programs in other locations like television personality Jane Pauley, former Texas Governor Ann Richards, former Miss U.S.A. Terri Utley, and the First Female Wing Commander in the U.S. Air Force Academy, Captain Michelle Johnson.

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