When Chelsea High School students Micayla Zynda, Jordan Battaglia, Ella Fritzemeier and Kelsee Brinklow can vote in their first election, they’ll have a much better idea of how government works.
The four friends spent June 17-23 in Holden Hall on the campus of Michigan State University as participants in the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State, a program for girls who have completed their junior year in high school.
And when Fritzemeier returns to the high school in September, the newly elected student body president will have more hands-on governmental knowledge — thanks to the experience she gained taking part in the week-long program.
“I’ll use some of the things I learned,” she said of her new position leading the about 222 students in the senior class. “I learned it’s important to know a lot of people and I’m going to go out of my way to get to know as many (classmates) as possible.”
Begun in 1941, about 30,000 participants have taken part in the program.
The four young ladies spoke about their experiences at the July 24 Chelsea City Council meeting, saying that the opportunity was an eye opener for them, and they came home with a much better understanding of how government works, including the responsibilities of elected officials.
Even though it was a simulated two-party situation, some of the participants took their roles very seriously, the girls said.
“We couldn’t believe how intense some members of the political parties were; some of the girls really got into it, they’d tell everyone to ‘follow what our party says,’” Brinklow said.
The girls got hands-on training in city, county, and state government during this 72nd session of the program.
“It was a really good opportunity,” Zynda said. “I didn’t have a background in politics and I have a lot more respect for the government on all levels.”
The girls learned the structure of the various levels of state government while participating in a two-party system. There was campaigning for office, voting in a general election and operating a judicial system.
They participated in a political party convention and assumed the roles of a legislator or a judge. They learn about lobbying and parliamentary procedure and creating legislation. Plus, they made new friends from all over the state.
In fact, the girls said they remain in contact with their fellow girls state friends.
“Even though we’re young, we learned we can get involved in government,” Zynda said.
Following the experience, the 17 year olds agreed that they’d become more involved and be better informed about government on all levels.
“Everyone was so accepting, so respective of one another,” Brinklow said, “It was nice to be with girls who are just like us.”
All of them agreed they’d bring a new sense of confidence and self-assurance to school this fall. “We gave speeches; we put ourselves out there,” Battaglia said.
Brinklow said she came home “more grateful for my life,” after listening to what some of the other girls had gone through in their lives. “It was inspirational how they got through setbacks. I’m more appreciative of my family and my city.”
Could a future Chelsea City Council Member be among this group?
For more information, click here.