SDSU to host annual Girls State The American Legion Auxiliary, Department of South Dakota, will celebrate the 53rd year of its Girls State Program May 31 through June 5 at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
During the past 53 years, more than 18,000 young women from South Dakota have participated in this "Workshop of Democracy."
In 1947 members of the American Legion Auxiliary formed the Girls State Corporation in Mitchell. The first session was held on the campus of South Dakota Wesleyan University.
The purpose was to train young women, who were interested in government and who possessed leadership abilities, the process of government on the city, county and state levels through active participation.
Girls State began with only the House of Representatives and the Senate, with the girls divided equally between each house. Now, each county elects delegates who meet and elect senators and house members as candidates for their party.
The judicial branch, which started with a demonstration of a court trial by members of the Mitchell Bar Association, now has seven court trials that are arranged by the Brookings Bar Association. The girls participate as defense and prosecuting attorneys, jurors and defendants.
An executive branch of cabinet officers, appointees and a Citizens Forum where ordinary citizens learn how their voices can be heard in state government, has also been added.
Because of constant pressure to increase enrollment, in 1985 the program was moved to the campus of SDSU, where an average of 465 delegates attend each year.
Gov. Bill Janklow will speak on Friday, June 4. Other special guests during the week will be Lt. Gov. Carol Hillard, Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine, Public Utilities Commissioner Laska Shoenfelder and the SDSU President Peggy Gordon Elliot.
Officials for 1999 Girls State include Judicial Counselor Chris Liewer of Vermillion.