Students pick up key lessons from Boys/Girls State experiences
Six students from Pius X High School participated in Boys State / Girls State this summer: Maggie Barie, Madeline Boothe, Abby Russman, Sean Freudenberg, Carlos Gutierrez, Nick McElroy. They answered questions about their experiences and the impact on them as leaders.
What key experiences shaped your participation at Girls State? What impacted you the most?
Carlos: The thing that impacted me the most was the diverse range of people that were brought together at Boys state. The world is a lot bigger than I expected. In the past I have characterized Nebraska by mainly Lincoln and Omaha, but never realized how many people there are from smaller farming communities across the state and how much of a role they play in our state.
I got assigned to be a Supreme Court Lawyer, which allowed me to tour the Nebraska Supreme Court and argue a court case in front of fellow Girls State citizens. This was what impacted me the most because it inspired me to follow my dreams of being a lawyer. Girls State showed me that it is possible for me to be a lawyer and a politician or anything that I want to be. It opened up so many opportunities for me and I am extremely grateful that I was selected to attend. The week was empowering and made me acknowledge the fact that I am capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to, and that I truly can impact our country and our world.
Maggie: That’s a hard question because I feel like the whole thing was a key experience in itself because it was a whole new world to me. Going into it I didn’t know a lot about the government or how some things worked in everyday government like parliamentary procedure (which, by the way, is very confusing and I don’t recommend trying to understand it.) After that week at girls state my eyes were opened to a greater respect for the wonderful leaders who run our country, because I learned the ins and outs of everything they do. What impacted me the most was the process of having to run for an elected office. I see the local and national elections but actually being a part of one was really interesting. I ran for county sheriff (so I ran on four of the floors out of 8) and ended up losing in the final round, so I was named deputy county sheriff. That was still an awesome experience because I got to meet the Lancaster County sheriff and learn about his job with the girl that won.
Madeline: Throughout the week, many assemblies and town meetings were held. Both of these included discussing real problems occurring in Nebraska, and the ideas we had to help solve them. I quickly became aware of how little I knew about our state’s issues. Many of the problems we discussed didn’t affect me, but instead my new friends. The issues revolved around flooding that had ruined their family’s land, road construction that delayed travel, and water pollution from nearby factories. It was eye opening to see girls my age talk about a problem they had seen first-hand. By the end of the week, I felt much more connected and Informed. I was contributing solutions to problems that just days previous I had idea existed.
Sean: When my town Belleau Wood came together and campaigned for one of own for governor, Evan Jolley. My town was on the top floor so we were 10 floors above the ground so we usually took the elevator whenever we wanted to go to our floor, well we got in trouble one night and had to take the stairs all of the next day. It doesn’t sound that bad until you realize that we go back and fourth from our floor around 20 times a day. The perseverance we had climbing up those 10 flights of stairs really brought us closer together because it gave everyone something in common: we hate stairs. Finally, the friendships and experiences that I made with my brothers from Belleau Wood that had people I would have never met if it wasn’t for Boy’s State is my favorite experience I took away from Boy’s State.
Abbie: Going into Girls State, I knew that I could only get as much out of it as I put in it, so I went in ambitiously. I campaigned for lieutenant governor, and although I lost, it allowed me to meet and interact with so many girls. The week was filled with so many huge opportunities that I am extremely grateful for. I was on the media staff, and through that I was selected to be editor in chief of Girls State 2019. This was an amazing opportunity for me, and I got to ask debate questions during the joint session debate between Jane Kleeb and Ryan Hamilton.
Nick: A big experience that shaped my participation at Boys State happened right at the start. We were voting people on for town positions and there was a chance for me to get onto the school board. I got up, a little nervous, and gave a speech in front of my town. This got me settled in and comfortable and I got the position. The thing that by far impacted me the most was the people. Never have I been in such a big group that just molded together instantly. There were people from all over the state but no one seemed to care about where you were from. Getting to know all the boys was the best part of the camp.
What did you learn about yourself as a leader and a member of a team?
Madeline: I learned that I am really good at finding common ground between two points of view. A key part of Girls state was compromising with one another in order to form the best proposition. As a member of a team I would say I am a team player. I am willing to do what needs to get done in order to be effective. In everyday life we are thrown into situations which require us to come together, and being able to work well with others is key for success.
Abbie: I learned a lot during Girls State. They brought in many prominent politicians-including the governor-and a majority of them had attended Boys or Girls State. These speakers in particular demonstrated that it is possible for me to be a leader and accomplish great things. I have always had a desire to do great things and leave an impact on our country and our world, and Girls State fueled those desires and opened up so many doors for me. I learned that it is necessary to put aside political differences when working as a group because they can alter your opinions of someone and affect what you think of their ideas and suggestions whether you realize you are being biased or not. I learned that in order to be a successful leader, I must look at the person and their ideas, not what they believe and who they support and what they have done.
Sean: It helped me realize the opportunities that I have never thought of before that can be taken to connect with people with all sorts of backgrounds and differences from myself.
Maggie: While I was there I learned that I’m a really big observer. I realized I like to analyze situations before I say or do something, which I didn’t really realize until I had to work together with other people to make laws and decide on plans. It made me think about what could be best for a group of people or even an entire town instead of just me, which was a new experience for me because I don’t really get to be a part of big things like that.
Carlos: One thing I learned at my time at Boys State is that leadership is about having confidence and leading by example. Boys State was, in simple terms, a large competition between teams called “towns” each made up of 60 or so Boys Staters. The amount of support for each other in our towns throughout the week was huge despite only knowing each other for a few days.
How will you use what you experienced and learned at Girls State going forward?
Abbie: Going forward, I will always keep what I experienced at Girls State with me. It gave me so many connections that will help me with internships or job shadows and potentially even a job. It was such a big opportunity that I wish everyone could experience. I am still in awe about how much that week impacted me. The Girls State staff does an amazing job at personalizing each citizen’s experience so that they feel empowered and important. I am going to take that empowerment with me and use it to spread confidence and positivity to everyone I interact with. I also learned that everyone has a voice and the right to share it. I will be open in my conversations and listen to what other people have to say because each person should be valued and their beliefs should be respected.
Maggie: I’ll use my experience at Girls State in so many ways through my life, like in student council, and other clubs. I think girls state made me see things from different perspectives because there were so many girls there with hundreds of different backgrounds and experiences, and each one had a different idea. So, that in and of itself is my biggest take away, but I also made so many friendships and connections that I will cherish forever.
Carlos: Going forward I will continue to work hard in school and lead by example. I will also continue to work towards my goals and support others in their endeavors as well.
Sean: I will use my experiences and lessons I learned from Boy’s State for the rest of my life in ways I never expected. It was an amazing and life changing experience that I will never forget.
Nick: Going forward I will definitely use my experience as a backbone to how I believe issues should be settled, through conversation. Nothing gets done through arguing, so in discrepancies we must listen to the other side of the story and compromise.
Madeline: I walked into Girls State not sure of what I what I was getting myself into. During the time I spent there, I made lifelong friends with women who continue to inspire me. I found that sometimes all it takes is a good idea, and a touch of perseverance, to make a change. Girls State helped me see that it doesn’t matter what party you belong to, or where you come from. We may have different views and opinions, but it is us against the problem, not each other. Together, we can make a difference.
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