Local girls enjoying experience

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Messenger Intern

With her blue Girls State bag on her shoulder and hope for election in her heart, Keri Wood hurried to hear Bob Ingram speak to the audience of excited high school senior girls.

Wood is one among four girls who are serving their school as representatives from Troy.

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"I was so excited being chosen to the representative from my school, Alabama School of Math and Science," said Wood.

"Girls State is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn the basics of politics and contribute to our patriotism."

Beverly Hughes of Pike Liberal Arts School, Natalie Patterson of Charles Henderson High School, and Hope Wheeler of Goshen High School joined Wood for a week of speakers and activities could quite possibly lead many young girls into the exciting world of politics.

For some Girls State has provided their first close working experience with politics.

Hughes was one of those girls.

"I haven’t ever been that interested in politics in the past," admitted Hughes.

"But, Girls State has changed all that.

Now that I have came to Girls State and learned more about politics I want to be involved in a governmental organization, like the Student Government Association, in the fall."

Other Pike County girls have had experience with the Student Government Associations at their schools.

Wood serves her school as the Campus Life Committee Chair and on the Executive Committee.

Wheeler is the SGA President at her school.

"I have always been involved with SGA as far back as elementary school," said Wood.

"I think that was partly because the SGA pretty much runs our school. The reason politics peaked my interest is it gives you the realization that you can make a difference in the way our government is run."

Girls State is about more for these Pike County girls than simply learning the ropes of the government. They all hope to build life long friendship throughout the week. One way that the staff at Girls State has encouraged making new friends is by placing each girl with fellow Girls Stater who is a stranger to them.

"It has been interesting but rewarding to room with someone that we are not familiar with," said Hughes.

"You have to practice patience and understanding in those kind of situations.

It has given us a chance to get to know someone with another culture and way of life than we have and we have a chance to be friends with girls that we might not have ever might under any other circumstances."

"I have made a lot of new friends and it is only the second day of Girls State," said Wheeler with a smile.

"I am looking forward to making even more friends and keeping in touch with them through phone calls and letters long after Girls State is done."

With the anniversary of September 11th just over the horizon, patriotism has run rampant through the heart’s of Girls Staters.

Sunday night, the girls were taught how to properly dispose of the American flag and other flag etiquette. They were also told the meaning of each fold in the flag when it is being folded for storage.

"It was interesting to learn all the proper ways of how the American flag is supposed to be handled," said Hughes.

"It really increased my appreciation for the soldiers and what they are fighting for."

Three hundred girls from all over Alabama linked arms Monday morning and sang "I’m Proud To Be An American" by Lee Greenwood.

"It sent chills up and down my spine when we sang together," said Wood.

"I know that I will go home with a greater sense of patriotism than I have ever had before."

Girls State has hopes of directed many young girls towards a life in politics and they have succeeded with one Troy girl.

Wood plans to work in the field of law for a while and then intertwine her experience there with a career in politics.

"I feel like politics is where I can utilize my talents," said Wood.

"I think I could do a lot to help the people of Alabama, beginning first with constitutional reformation."

Although Wheeler and Hughes both want to pursue a career in medicine, they have still benefited from their time at Girls State by making new friends, learning political procedures, and gaining patriotism.

"I’m not really interested in a career in politics," said Wheeler.

"But I have benefited greatly from my experience at Girls State and I can’t wait to take everything I have learned and use it through my high school’s SGA."

The representatives at Girls State are only at the beginning of their stay at Troy State University. The week will wrap up with a trip to Alabama’s capital in Montgomery on Friday.

The girls who experienced this week of politics and patriotism will then go their separate ways, some towards politics, some away from government, but all with an greater sense of self and the country in which they live.