Two Mariner High School seniors were selected and sponsored by the American Legion Women's Auxiliary and sent to Tallahassee this past summer to participate in Girls State.
The program, Girls State, was first held in 1947 in Florida. Now 300 young women, who are completing their junior year of high school and chosen by area American Legion auxiliaries, attend the annual program and experience the democratic form of government through assuming the roles of city, county and state officials or legislators.
The motto for Girls State is "forward forever, backward never, within ourselves our future lies."
Mariner High seniors Nora Navarro and Martha Gonzalez attended the 65th session of Girls State in Tallahassee.
This year's Girls State was held from June 15-23 at Florida State University where the participants resided in the dorms on campus during the week-long stay.
The two high school seniors were asked to speak before the American Legion's Auxiliary Wednesday night during the group's board meeting to share their experience, as well as receive plaques from the legion for their accomplishment.
Nora Navarro said she was glad she went to Girls State this past summer because of the amazing people she met, along with having the opportunity to be introduced to a senator and the deputy of Florida Highway Patrol.
"Happy to be in the environment with the best in Florida," she said of the other girls who attended who were also logical thinkers that think outside of the box. "It was a breath of fresh air to attend Girls State."
Martha Gonzalez said she had an amazing Girls State experience. She said she attended the program as a shy person who kept to herself and left a more talkative person with different goals.
"I opened myself up to other people," Gonzalez said, adding that she got to know strangers.
While the girls were in Tallahassee they had training, so they could live together and understand the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. Once they arrived they were given a political party assignment, which was either nationalist or federalist, so they could gain knowledge of how the party operates.
Once the two parties formed, the girls adopted party platforms, held pep rallies and made nominations for state government.
They participated in such activities as legislative sessions, campaigning, party rallies, debating and voting. The girls were also taught how a bill becomes a law and what roles an elected official takes part in within the state government.
A mock government was then set into action, where the girls elected their state governor, cabinet and other officials and began drafting bills and then debating those bills.
"It was tailor made for me because I am huge into politics," Navarro said. "I want to become a senator for Congress, now I understand I should work hard."
Gonzalez told the auxiliary members that she was not that interested in politics before she attended Girls State, which changed when she learned of the passion that others around her had. She said she learned that it is important to be informed of how the government works and knowing what you voted for.
"Seeing so many people so passionate so many things I want to do," she said within the government.