HELENA — The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Girls State has been running in Montana for nearly 75 years to teach high schoolers about how our government and the democratic process work. For the week they are together, the girls separate into varying groups that represent different counties and parties. They have hands-on engagement with the process of government by doing things like campaigning, hosting mock elections, and passing bills.
“How many wonderful young women have we inspired to go into either politics or small business or at least to understand how they have a voice in our government?” mused Jennifer Dalrymple, Director for the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Program.
Highschooler Brooke Burnett, voted to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by her peers, says that she aspires to be a Montana state senator or work in the supreme court one day and that this experience has been an encouraging eye-opener into what she wants to do with her career.
“I’m learning how to campaign. I'm learning how to be a better leader for the girls that I am representing. And I'm getting to learn like all different aspects of a legislator,” says Burnett.
The girls spent a Thursday at the Capitol, to learn from officials, tour the building, and participate in mock government. Part of Thursday’s agenda was for those elected as justices to engage in a robing and swearing-in ceremony by actual Montana Justice, Beth Baker, who herself participated in Girls State when she was in high school in Washington.
“Our government depends on all of us to participate. It's not automatic that we have this democracy and its education that enables people to participate well...” Montana Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker told the girls.