ELKINS – An abundance of enthusiasm ushered in the 77th session of the American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State at Davis & Elkins College Sunday evening. The newly sworn in citizens gathered in Myles Center for the Arts Harper-McNeeley Auditorium for an official welcome and to hear messages of encouragement.
Rising high school seniors from across the Mountain State are spending the week on the D&E campus participating in the premier experiential hands-on program that focuses on citizenship and patriotism, and develops leadership and pride in American citizens, educates citizens about our system of government, instills a greater understanding of American traditions, and stimulates a desire to maintain our democratic government processes within our republic.
Davis & Elkins College First Lady and Executive Director of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber Lisa Wood shared her experiences as a 1982 Girls State alumna, saying she made lasting friendships and learned life lessons.
“I learned what real leadership was like and it wasn’t what I expected,” Wood said. “We want to say leaders are the important people, the people with the high powered jobs, but that isn’t how we should identify leaders. Leaders are people who influence others.”
The citizens also heard words of encouragement from Randolph County Family Court Judge Lori Haynes, who told the group to embrace their path, even when there are hurdles along the way.
“Understand your worth,” Haynes emphasized. “Do not settle for people thinking that you are capable of less than you are capable of. Let them know you are capable of much more and are willing to prove it to them.”
Haynes presided over the official swearing-in ceremony of the Girls State citizens to begin their week in leadership activities.