Kathryn Oakland spoke to the Spring Valley American Legion Ladies Auxiliary on Oct. 3 about her experiences this past summer at Minnesota’s Girls State.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Kathryn Oakland spoke to the Spring Valley American Legion Ladies Auxiliary on Oct. 3 about her experiences this past summer at Minnesota’s Girls State. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Spring Valley native Kathryn Oakland relayed her Girls State experiences during a recent visit to the Spring Valley American Legion Ladies Auxiliary.

Girls State is a nonpartisan program that teaches young women responsible citizenship, as well as a love for God and country. The program began in 1937, and to date has provided nearly 1 million youths throughout the United States the opportunity to learn how their state and local governments work. Oakland first learned of the program as a junior last year.

"Kaylee Beevers came to speak to came to speak in my history class to tell us all about it. We had to write an essay telling about why we wanted to go to Girls State. The essays were then read and judged by the American Legion who chose the person they wanted to sponsor to go free of charge," Oakland explained.

She attended the five-day event the week of June 10 at Bethel College in St. Paul. And though she was extremely busy during those five days she did take time to enjoy the experience.

"Some of my favorite times were with my roommates, staying up all hours in the night to work on campaigns," Oakland revealed. "At Girls State I was constantly on the go and going every which way and so it was nice to settle in and relax a little at night time."

According to Oakland, the program gives great information for those youth interested in government or law enforcement careers.

"They have speakers come and talk to us about their jobs and it really helps you to understand what their jobs actually are. Even if you are not planning to go into a government sort of job it inspires you to think about your own future," she stated.

And though Oakland now plans to pursue writing instead of politics, she was able to use her skills to help write another candidate's speech in order for her to gain the position she was seeking.

There were a few unexpected aspects of the program for Oakland. "The one thing that surprised me is that they put you on the liberal or conservative side without you getting to choose. Being that I was placed as a conservative, I learned a lot about their platform and learned to see their side, as well as, my more common frame of mind as a liberal," Oakland concluded.

The American Legion Auxiliary Minnesota Girls State program has been active for the past 66 year and joins young women from around the state. The women not only listen to speakers, but also vote for and carry out elected and appointed positions in government. The Legion's website states, " This program gives participants the experience of living together as self-governing citizens with the privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship, plus gaining knowledge of the American Legion Auxiliary."

Speaking to the local legion was a bit nerve-racking for the Kingsland senior, but she explained that once she realized how nice every one of them were and they wouldn't judge her if she made a mistake, she had a great time.

"All they wanted was to hear what it was like for me going and I was glad to tell them," she said.

As for the Girls State program, Oakland confirmed, "I would recommend Girls State to anyone, it was one of the best weeks I have ever had."