Rhododendron Girls State participants meet after spending week at Davis & Elkins College

MORGANTOWN — Dressed in white, the Monongalia County girls who participated in the 2019 Rhododendron Girls State (RGS) came together Saturday after their week long experience at Davis & Elkins College.

                 Sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, nearly 400 rising high school senior girls learn how government works by establishing a mock government with party structure in non-partisan and non-political parties. RGS also offers girls seminars and encourages them to use their talents for things like writing in the Girls State newspaper, designing literature or performing in a talent show.

Helen Lindsay started working with the girls after she retired in 2002. She said the leadership and citizenship are important things that Girls State teaches its participants.

“Younger people are going to be the leaders of course. All over the country we already have young people who are taking the initiative even in government,” said Lindsay.

She also said the sponsorships of the girls is an important part of Girls State, given they could not participate without that support. Every year Lindsay hosts the girls in her home after they come back home.

“It gives them time to share their memories,” she said.

Mallori Straub, Alex Watson and Madison Wesolowsky were three girls who participated in this year’s Girls State. Straub said her expectations differed from the reality of what Girls State was. She said she thought it would be a very formal and strict environment – but she said it ended up being a lot of fun.

“I was also very impressed with the speakers that came. I wasn’t really expecting to be so engaged with them,” said Watson.

The girls said they will all take away different things from Girls State. Wesolowsky said she gained more insight and respect for veterans. Straub said she gained a new appreciation of the freedoms Americans have.

Maeve Leyden is one lucky girl who gets to attend Girl’s Nation in Washington, DC. She will get to attend senate meetings, write a bill for Congress and meet President Trump. She said Girls State was a really good opportunity for her.

“I learned a lot from it. A lot more than I was expecting to,” she said.

She said she was not expecting to be picked for Girls Nation. She’s really excited to attend and can’t wait to go in July and meet the president.

“Even if you don’t agree with his politics it’s an honor,” she said.

Since being picked, she’s talked to other girls who have attended and they told her Girls Nation was “the best week of their life.”

“It’s just the way that it was at Girls State where everyone was so friendly and nice and you could just talk to anyone and they would be your best friend,” she said, “getting to do that all over again is going to be so fun.”