Davis & Elkins College will welcome more than 200 rising high school seniors as American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State returns for a full in-person session, June 12-17. The young women selected to participate in West Virginia’s premier leadership academy will dedicate the week to learning more about Americanism and citizenship.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, sessions in the previous two years were conducted on a virtual platform. This year marks the 79th session with the theme “We’re On Our Way.”

“Rhododendron Girls State is thrilled to be back on campus for a full in-person,” said Dr. Rosemary Thomas, WV American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State Director and D&E Executive Vice President. “Learning first-hand about our form of government on the hallowed grounds that were once occupied by Senators Davis and Elkins makes the learning process even more real. The College community plays an integral role in the entire week, serving as hosts and providing speakers, instructors, moderators and more. The environment lends itself to living and learning as well as fellowship and fun.”

The students, who will become “citizens” of Girls State, will spend the week immersed in educational sessions focused on government and participate in party caucuses. The week also entails a platform for learning the election process with the formation of a mock government in which the citizens have opportunities to file for office, campaign, attend candidate speeches, vote and participate in an inauguration ceremony. Some of West Virginia’s top government officials and education leaders scheduled to speak are U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Honorary Girls State Citizen Natalie Tennant, West Virginia State Auditor JB McCuskey, WVHEPC Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Dr. Cynthia Persilly and West Virginia House of Delegates Majority Leader Amy Summers. In addition, West Virginia author Diana Johnson and Coordinator of President’s Initiative on Community and Immersive Learning at Davis & Elkins College and Executive Director of The Old Brick Playhouse Missy Armentrout McCollam will deliver a keynote addresses.

In accordance with Girls State’s emphasis on veterans, several activities are planned to pay tribute to those who have served our country and to educate the citizens about the role of American Legion Auxiliary members.

Davis & Elkins College will also host a college fair for the citizens.

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 our democratic government processes within our republic.

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.