SDSU will host Girls State The American Legion Auxiliary, Department of South Dakota, will celebrate the 55th year of its Girls State Program May 28 through June 2 at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
During the past 55 years, some 20,000 young women from South Dakota have participated in this "Workshop of Democracy," where, through active participation, they learn how government works on the city, county and state levels.
Vermillion High School's Girls State delegates this year are Karen Sorensen, Megan Kruse, Carey Engstrom (alternate), Deepti Naik (alternate), Mary Nelson, Ashley Thompson and Jennifer Slagle.
The American Legion Auxiliary formed the Girls State Corporation in Mitchell in 1947 and the first session was held on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University. 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 began 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 SDSU campus, where an average of 465 delegates attend each year.
Gov. Bill Janklow will speak on Friday, June 1. Other special guests during the week include Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine, Watertown Mayor Brenda Barger, Lt. Gov. Carole Hillard and SDSU President Peggy Gordon Elliott. Girls State Governor Betsy Hart of Rapid City will preside over the event.
Girls State officials include Stephanie Moser, Vermillion, a senior counselor.