Nine hundred girls, one week, one government system, and a once in a life time experience. Sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Buckeye Girls State (BGS) is a one- week mock government experience, in which each function of government is performed through nine hundred highly intelligent girls, whom are carefully selected from across the state of Ohio.
Some are chosen by application, some by interview, and some by teacher recommendation. This prestigious program was held at the University of Mount Union, from June 12-18.
BGS consisted of one state, four counties, twenty cities and two political parties. When first arriving at BGS, each "delegate" was assigned a county, a city, and a party. The counties generally consisted of the building the delegate would be staying in and the city consisted of the floor the delegate would be staying on. Finally, the delegate was assigned a political party, Nationalist or Federalist. The political parties became important when campaigning for positions, as a candidate from each party would be endorsed for each position.
Delegates, including Lakeview's Jenelle Bayus, sitting on top of the rock, are welcomed at the University of Mount Union campus for a one-week mock government experience.
Throughout the week, the girls worked to turn their floor, or their city, into a city of their own using construction paper and other decorating supplies. Each door on the floor is created into a business, such as a mall, gas station, or bank. The girls choose a theme at the beginning of the week to base their city on. Each city is also designated a spot in which they knew as "city hall." After all elections, government functions such as mock city council meetings and mock trials would be held.
During the tiring week at BGS, each delegate must decide if they wish to run for a position within the state, county, or city government, or if they simply wish to be appointed to a position. By the end of the week each delegate was performing a job to formulate the government. The equality of each job at BGS was stressed throughout the week, as a government would not be able to function without each job. If running for a position the delegate learned the importance of campaigning and making their name well known to have a successful campaign.
When campaigning the candidate learned the importance of effective communication as well as preparing and delivering speeches. In order to be elected to a desired position, the delegate must receive the votes, which entails a strong supportive group also promoting the delegates name. Also learned during the week, was the importance of developing a political platform that interested the voters. With a strong political platform that involved issues that concerned voters, the candidates discovered their campaign would be a success.
Two elections are held at BGS, the Primary and the General elections. The Primary election is the first of the two elections. After being endorsed at either the county or state level of government, the candidates were voted upon based on their political party. The candidates gaining the majority vote then moved on to the General election, where one candidate from each political party is voted upon for each position.
I first learned about BGS through my government class and decided to apply for the program in hopes I would be selected. After interviewing with two ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary, I knew I wanted to participate in this prestigious program. I was in a state of shock and excitement when my principal delivered the news that I had been chosen to represent Lakeview High School.
When I first arrived at BGS I was very concerned as to how I would fit in and what challenges I would take on throughout the week. I was undecided if I wanted to run for a position, or simply be appointed to one. I was assigned to Schroeder County, Taft City and my political party was Nationalist.
After the first city meeting, I immediately felt myself connect with the girls. The amount of knowledge that circulated the room, just during the first meeting amazed me. We immediately began working together to endorse candidates for the different positions. I did not feel I had the knowledge or support to run for a state or county position until our first county caucus when I was endorsed as the Nationalist candidate for State Party Chairman from Schroeder County. Little did I know I would be giving a speech in front of half of BGS, 450 girls, or the Nationalist Party. I spent my entire break preparing a speech that would grab the attention of delegates from other counties, in hopes of gaining their votes. I rehearsed my speech over and over, in front of other girls in my city, my roommate, and even in the mirror.
That night at the state party caucus, I delivered my speech with pride and dignity. I was running against three highly intelligent girls, who delivered impeccable speeches as well. After the election, I was defeated. I was disappointed, but I was proud of myself for putting forth the effort and running for a position that I was convinced was too difficult for me. I was amazed at the amount of girls who made it a point to introduce themselves to me and simply say what a nice job I had done, even though I was defeated.
After my defeat, I was excited to spend more time within my city, decorating, or "building" and to spend my time meeting new people. My roommate and I decided our business would be a mall, which we named "Taft Shining Star Mall," since our cities theme was Broadway.
After the general elections, I was appointed to the city director of public service. Within this position, I spent time building parking lots, sidewalks, and landfills, out of construction paper. I also was involved within our city hall, where we held mock city council meetings and trials.
By the end of the week, the girls within my city had become extremely close. The room was always filled with laughter and excitement when we were all together. I gained a vast amount of knowledge throughout the week, and accomplished much more than I had ever expected.
My experience at BGS was one to remember, a once in a life time experience.