American Legion Auxiliary West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State makes its return to the Davis & Elkins College campus, June 14-18. The first-ever virtual session will follow traditional programming, while an in-person ceremony will be hosted for inauguration and recognition.

Established in 1941 under the sponsorship and direction of the American Legion Auxiliary Department of West Virginia, Rhododendron Girls State is a 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 democratic government processes within our republic.

Rhododendron Girls State made its debut at Davis & Elkins College in 2018 keeping its early ties to Randolph County. The first governor of Rhododendron Girls State was the late Kathryn Bell McGee White, a native of Huttonsville and retired Elkins High School science teacher. Girls State is now deeper rooted in the College and local area with D&E Vice President for Enrollment Management and Institutional Advancement Dr. Rosemary Thomas serving as Girls State director. Within the College community, she joins Girls State alumni First Lady Lisa Messinger Wood, Assistant Dean of Students Kate Garlick, Registrar Dr. Stephanie Haynes and Trustee Emerita June Myles, among others. D&E sophomore Katie Beth Caudill of Huntington was elected governor in the 2019 session and will preside over the virtual session.

While the 2020 session was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an abbreviated virtual session for those students was conducted in May. The June 14-18 event marks its place in history as the first virtual session.

“While holding Girls State in person was not possible this year, not having Girls State was never an option for us,” Thomas said. “We are delighted to present this virtual program and thrilled to welcome everyone to campus for the culmination of our week.

“We hope the young women in attendance will be actively engaged throughout the week and make the most of opportunities to network across the state and beyond,” Thomas added.

The session will take place from Harper-McNeeley Auditorium in Myles Center for the Arts. National President of the American Legion Auxiliary Nicole Clapp of Gladbrook, Iowa, will spend three days on campus participating in activities. Additional speakers include U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., State Treasurer Riley Moore, Secretary of State Mac Warner and actor Lee Dean, who will portray U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph. Girls State citizens will spend the week immersed in educational sessions focused on government and learn about the election process first-hand by filing for office, campaigning, listening to candidate speeches and voting.

An in-person inauguration ceremony on June 18 will also recognize each citizen. Keynote speaker will be Girls State alumna Missy McCollam, coordinator of President’s Initiative on Community and Immersive Learning at D&E, executive director of The Old Brick Playhouse and executive director of The New School OBP. The event will include the announcement of the two citizens who will represent West Virginia as senators to the American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation.

Davis & Elkins College will also host a virtual college fair for the citizens with representatives from other higher education institutions.

Candidates for citizens of Rhododendron Girls State are recommended by their high schools based on their interest in government, leadership, character and honesty, scholarship, cooperativeness, community participation, knowledge of parliamentary procedures and demonstration of above average scholastic achievement.