Frenship HS girls learn legislation at Girls State

Two Frenship High School seniors spent a week this summer learning about local, state and federal government through Texas Bluebonnet Girls State.

Lauren Pugh and Jessica Wilkins were two of hundreds of girls throughout the state who traveled to Texas Lutheran University in Seguin to participate in forming their own city, county and state governments. Each ran a campaign for public office and took part in writing bills in the state House and Senate.

The American Legion Auxiliary started the program more than 50 years ago to educate young people about citizenship, government and responsibility.

Neither Jessica nor Lauren knew anything about Girls State prior to being nominated to take part by their DECA sponsor, Amy Baker, who described both girls as “fabulous.” “

“I can tell you that they have outstanding character and that they will be leaders in the world one day,” Baker said. “I honestly think they have a rare quality that helps them to have an impact on people’s lives.”

Baker said her own experiences at Girls State were life-changing, and she encourages her own students to go.

“I really got a sense of patriotism and free enterprise,” Baker said. “It really made me want to stand up and do more for society.”

Jessica, who was a councilwoman for the City of Fireflies, said she filed for the office on her second day at Girls State, made a speech and began voting, a privilege she was granted almost every day of the week.

She also applied for and was assigned to a position as a committee chairwoman in the House of Representatives. Texas Girls State assigns each girl to either the House or the Senate so every girl can experience the process of forming and voting on bills.

At the city level, elections weren’t a big deal, Jessica said. But at the county and state level, many elections led to run-offs.

“I think we had three or four run-offs for governor,” she said. “It was cool to kind of see the whole process.”

Lauren said it was tough to decide among her new friends on some elected positions, and she had to focus on the merits of their speeches and campaigns rather than her friendships.

Like Jessica, Lauren ran for a city office right away in the City of Lovely Ladies.

“I ran for city tax assessor and collector. I made it and I was pretty surprised,” she said. “We came up with quirky little taxes, like if you brought more than four pairs of shoes, then you had to write five sweet notes to your fellow city members, fellow Lovely Ladies. And there was another one, if you were late to line-up, then you would have to do the teapot dance in front of everybody. It was the embarrassment tax.”

Lauren said she enjoyed the fact that Girls State organizers separated people from the same school districts so they would meet new people. She now has friends from throughout the state who she is keeping up with through social media.

She said she was surprised how much she enjoyed Girls State.

“It gave me a newfound respect for anyone in politics,” Lauren said.

Jessica said she was impressed by the backgrounds of her fellow Girls State citizens, but she said it gave her a confidence boost to realize that she fit in with them and their qualifications.

“The resumes on these girls were outstanding,” Jessica said.

The experience of going to Girls State may not have Jessica running for election in the future, but she said it has inspired her to keep up with what is going on and the knowledge to be able to follow state and national legislative activity.

“I do want to keep up now with what’s happening in the House and Senate,” she said.

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