This summer, Rebecca Lieser, a YME senior, participated in the Girls State program. This program helps boys and girls learn leadership and citizenship by having them set up and run a mock government. They explore the city, county, and state levels. The girls are divided into groups, each group is considered a “city” and decide their own style of government. For county and state positions, there was campaigning, whistle-stop style. (Candidates make brief appearances or speeches at each of the “cities” over part of the day.) Lieser said that the campaigning got very involved. The hallways were flooded with posters. The majority of candidates had clever slogans and everyone had a chance to deliver a speech stating their case.
The girls were split into National and Federalist parties. One aspect that confused many participants is that they were forced to follow party lines. They had to vote for their assigned party candidates. Also, when the House and Senate were working on bills, the goal was to support bills from the party instead of bills that affect issues important to the girls, the state, or the respective cities. Lieser didn’t know much about government going in to the program. Last year she participated in HOBY, (Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership) a leadership program, which inspired her to change career directions.
She had been studying computer science, but learned she does well with management. Lieser ended up getting into the Senate. On the last day of the program, she and the other Senators got to go to the Capitol, and actually sit in the real life Senate chairs and pass bills. For now, Lieser doesn’t see herself going directly into politics, but she plans to be involved. “I don’t have to hold a county position or state position to be involved, go to meetings, or have a voice. This program helped me realize that.” The political cause Lieser is most interested in is public transportation. A representative from the legislature who was on the Public Transportation Committee was coincidently present to help write a bill. The representative explained how the committee recently had to fight to keep their funding, since there was a plan to cut all funding for public transportation in Minnesota. Lieser was a passionate participant in that discussion. According to Lieser, many people want more railways to connect rural areas, but the Legislature has been ignoring the problem, considering it unimportant. Transpor-tation and recreation are what keep people engaged. Lieser is looking forward to continuing to learn about government and working to make change.