By John R. Schirmer
Eight Nashville High School students recently attended Arkansas Girls State and Arkansas Boys State, summer programs which teach the seniors-to-be about state and local government and how the American political system operates.
The students ran for elected office from mythical towns and counties. They heard guest speakers, and they visited the Arkansas Capitol to get a first-hand look at the seat of state government.
Sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Girls State was held May 28-June 2 at Harding University. Nashville delegates included Alyssa Rather, Olivia Herzog, Peyton Dodd, Monique Flores and Rykia Swift.
Boys State, sponsored by the American Legion, was May 28-June 2 at the University of Central Arkansas. NHS delegates included Garrett Lance, Hunter Burton, Caleb Newton and Malcom Campbell.
NHS students who were elected to office included Rather, House of Representatives; Herzog, alderman; Flores, city clerk and county clerk; and Newton, school board and representative.
Rather said her favorite part of Girls State was “going to the Capitol and being a representative. I got to sit where the real representatives sit.” Rather sponsored a revenue and taxation bill which would charge sales tax on online purchases and use the income to reduce other taxes for Arkansans.
Herzog enjoyed “getting to meet new people and making friendships. We got to bond with the people in our city.” The Scrapper cheerleader liked rally night, where delegates dressed in the colors of their parties. “I was a Nationalist, so I dressed head to toe in navy and blue. It was really fun. We got to rally and do chants all night,” Herzog said.
Flores liked learning about the government process and participating in activities to build self-esteem. “We had very nice counselors who taught us to encourage each other. Whether we were from big towns or small towns, we could go out and have fun and get out of our shadow.”
Lance said his favorite part of Boys State was “going and touring Camp Robinson. We saw the Blackhawks and went in the shooting simulator. We also toured the Capitol.”
Newton was glad that he was “able to be a representative from my county. It was interesting to see how the legislative process works. The governor came through and had to wait until we acknowledged him. It was interesting to see how the House goes through things and watch the process.”
Burton enjoyed the emphasis on leadership and “the discussions we had as a group at the end of the day. They helped form bonds with everyone there.”
Herzog, Rather and Flores signed up to work as counselors at next year’s Girls State.
As far as political aspirations among the delegates, Rather said she would “like to run for representative some day.”