Teen Absorbs Lessons in Leadership

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By Carol Bennion, Guest contributor

When informed that she had been nominated by Laguna Beach High School faculty and staff to interview with two of her peers to compete for a single spot at California Girls State, Delaney Basile had no idea what she was getting into.

“None of us were really familiar with this annual leadership gathering for young women,” said Delaney. After being selected as the LBHS’ representative, Delaney recently spent a week at Claremont McKenna College with over 500 girls from across California learning how government works in our state, including activities from building communities to writing and voting on bills.

Organized by the American Legion Auxiliary’s California department and run annually since 1940, the California Girls State brings together junior high school leaders to increase their knowledge of government while learning about the responsibilities of citizenship.

Attendees at Girls State
Attendees at California Girls State in June.

Delegates come away with a greater appreciation of the United States and of the sacrifices made by veterans. Participants make friends with young women from around the state. Local Auxiliary chapters, such as Laguna Beach’s Post 222, organize and raise funds to fully support Girls State scholars.

About the conclave in the last week of June, Delaney, now a senior, said, “Our days were long, starting at 6:30 a.m. and often working to 9:30 or 10 p.m. We split into two parties and many cities, and nominated elected officials at the city and state levels: mayor, council member, senator, governor…”

As for outcomes, “There was no judgment in this group and failure was a learning experience. You learned to just say, ‘Interesting, what’s next‘ and keep moving forward. And, I made some very close friends. I feel much more knowledgeable about being a citizen and empowered as a woman.”

Says Elizabeth Tomlin, from Laguna Beach’s American Legion Auxiliary Post 222 and Girls State session nurse, “We see the girls blossom over the week. It starts out a little confusing, but by the end we see strong articulate young ladies who have found their voices and passion.”

Girls State takes place nationwide, training a group of young women in leadership skills and providing hands-on experience for addressing future challenges and creating new opportunities. Former student attendees include broadcast journalist Jane Pauley to former Texas Governor Ann Richards.

Adds Delaney, “By the way, the food was awesome!”

The author is Delaney’s grandmother.

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