Iowa Girls State alumnae attends as 2019 counselor
TS Bank is a proud sponsor of Iowa Girls State and our local American Legion. Promoting service, leadership development and love of country are core values that align with TS Bank.
The American Legion Auxiliary Girls State provides an opportunity for a select few high school women who have completed their junior year to experience the “nitty gritty” of state government processes —the chance to live outside the text book. A fictional self-governing state of young ladies elect their own leaders, write bills for debate and run a legislative session — it is an intense week of leadership, patriotism and community.
Additionally, two participants from each of 49 states are selected to attend the elite American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington DC, where they have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the president of the United States. Since 1937, more than one million politically savvy young women have attended American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.
Soon-to-be seniors at Treynor High School, Clarissa Weitzel and Emily Morse, attended the 2019 Iowa Girls State held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, June 16-21 with Alora Nowlin, who returned as a counselor this year.
We sat down with recent Treynor graduate Alora Nowlin to hear more about her experience as a student attendee and this year as a student counselor.
How did you get involved with Girls State?
I was nominated by the teachers at Treynor High School to attend Iowa Girls State. The American Legion funded my experience. You can also apply for Iowa Girls State through a local legion or legion auxiliary if your particular school didn't sanction the official selection process.
Did you have prior knowledge or interest in Girls State and/or government and politics? If no, how has the changed?
I had already taken a government class, so I did have previous knowledge of government and politics. However, I still learned a lot about our system of government, especially at the state level. I would say that I learned the most about the state central committees and how they worked. The first position I had was a member of my party's state central committee. I didn't know anything about the committee before Girls State, but I learned that this was the group that determined the party values and beliefs.
What was the experience like at Girls State?
Iowa Girls State is a very unique experience because although it is a fictional environment, it feels very real. It is really important to balance the fiction of being in Hawkeye (the Girls State country) with the nonfiction of being genuine and experiencing the same thing as your peers for the first time. As someone who ran for a state office, I would say my experience was a bit more stressful and eventful because I was preparing speeches and researching. Those who may have chosen to simply sit back and enjoy the experience of watching others run will most likely have a more relaxed experience. It really just depends on what you want to make of the experience.
I am glad I stepped into the experience with both feet! Plus, I loved it so much I returned this year as a student counselor.
What was your favorite memory?
My favorite memory of Girls State was staying up with my roommates past curfew to work on our speeches. We stayed up until probably 1 or 2 the morning before our last round of speeches because we wanted to have the best speech possible. We pooled our snacks and helped each other draft and practice our speeches. One of my roommates was also on the state ballot and another one of my roommates had received the nomination to be considered as a Girls Nation senator.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me was public speaking. I have always been someone who needs a week or two to rehearse and then present. However, I believe this challenge helped me to grow. I now think I am a much better spontaneous speaker because I learned to take my main ideas and incorporate them in my speeches in a more natural way.
What would be a piece of advice you would give another considering to get involved with Girls State?
Talking with other girls who plan to go to Girls State, I would say find a synonym for passion first and foremost. The number one word you will hear in speeches is passion, so try to find a way to be unique. Also, be open to the opportunity. Everyone is in the same boat, and only the staff knows how to row. You have to be willing to take a chance in order to fully learn and be an active participant in Girls State.
Because of this experience how has it shaped you or opened other opportunities?
Girls State was the best conference I have ever attended. Because of my experience at Girls State, I have joined the American Legion Auxiliary, and I have had the chance to speak in front of many different audiences about the advantages of Girls State and why it is a great investment in girls.
In addition, Alora was named the 2018 Outstanding Girls State Citizen, which acknowledges a Girls State participant for citizenship and involvement in the program.
“I was shocked to hear my name when it was called. It was the last award of the night, and I am still so proud of the honor!” she said.
The award was also coupled with a $5,000 dollar scholarship.
“Because of this scholarship, I have been asked to speak in front of many different groups, including both the state level and the local level. Due to this, I am able to spread the word about how truly transforming Girls State can be,” Alora said.
Alora will be attending Central College in Pella, Iowa, this fall and planning to triple major in Internal Studies, Spanish and Political Science. Alora was involved in the following high school activities: National Honor Society, quiz bowl, school musical production, speech, JOI Club, Pottawattamie Youth Council, Youth Leadership Council Bluffs, Girl Scouts, Girl Scout Advisory Group, Student Council and served as a student representative on the Treynor School Board.
In addition to Girls State, Alora also represented Treynor Community Schools at HOBY, a youth leadership program focused on leadership, service and innovation. She was the scholarship recipient for the Young Minds Change Lives, Eli Namen, Junior Treynor Women, and the Haack Family. Alora also received several honors including Runza Student of the Week, The American Legion Citizenship Award, Girls Scouts Gold Award, and named Top Youth Leader in the Youth Salute Program, TOYO (Ten Outstanding Youth Omaha) Teens with Omaha JayCees to name a few.
Congrats to this year’s attendees, we look forward to the big things you will each accomplish in the future!
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Photo: From left, Clarissa Weitzel, incoming Treynor HS senior, Alora Nowlin, Treynor graduate and Emily Morse, incoming Treynor HS senior.