American Legion Auxiliary West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State opened its first virtual session Monday on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. United States Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined the morning program and the American Legion caravan made a special visit in the afternoon.
Capito addressed topics ranging from health care to term limits and the national debt. On a more regional topic, she discussed the need for increased broadband for homes, businesses and schools in West Virginia.
“Connectivity is a big part of bringing young people back into the state,” Capito said.
Later in the day, as part of their caravan tour, national and state leaders in the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary made a stop in Elkins to visit Girls State. In a sober ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Myles Plaza, the entourage and Girls State representatives paid tribute to the D&E alumni who gave their lives while serving their country. Members of the tour also addressed the group encouraging them to make the most out of their Girls State experience and to put forth efforts to become better citizens.
Commander of the Sons of the American Legion Detachment of West Virginia Jacob McCarty reminded the Girls State citizens that they had learned new skills during the pandemic such as being a self-starter and maximizing the use of technology.
“I’m proud that even during a pandemic each of you gets a chance to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” McCarty said. “The speakers and presenters will provide you the background to expand your leadership skills.”
McCarty outlined qualities of a good leader, including being willing to express your opinion, not being afraid to admit you are wrong and always being a team player.
“West Virginia needs you,” McCarty said. “I know many of you have already been told that you’ll never find a job in West Virginia. Do everything in your power to prove them wrong. Engage in civil leadership, mold your community into what you want it to be.”
He also borrowed from a presentation he heard at a national conference that had enlightened him. Titled “If Not You, Then Who,” the speech emphasized that if something needs changed or accomplished, then step up and do it.
Rhododendron Girls State made its debut at Davis & Elkins College in 2018. This year’s first virtual presentation takes place from Harper-McNeeley Auditorium in Myles Center for the Arts.
An in-person inauguration ceremony on Friday, June 18 will recognize each citizen. The new governor will be sworn in by 22nd Family Court Circuit Judge Lori Haynes. 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.