ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JULIE ANDERSON
Hillsboro High School students Heather Pankratz and Chelsea D’Albini got a taste of life in state government during Girls State, June 4-9 at the University of Kansas.
“It’s such a learning experience,” D’Albini said. “I understand a lot more about government now. Seeing how this is a county election year, you see all of the campaigning stuff. I have a lot more respect for the people who walk around trying to earn votes.”
D’Albini and Pankratz became interested in Girls State after hearing about the experiences of girls who attended last year.
“If we were interested, then we just sign up and we go before the auxiliary board and tell them why we wanted to go and what we thought we could get out of it,” D’Albini said.
To be selected, students must have just completed their junior year and be chosen by the Girls State Board, Inc.
Pankratz said they learned how elections work and how important it is to be registered to vote.
“It’s all done like regular elections,” Pankratz said of Girls State. “You first get nominated through your party, then you have your primary, which you have to make. Then you have to go against both parties.”
The 516 girls at the event were divided into counties; each county consisted of two cities.
D’Albini chose to run for secretary of the state.
She learned there is a lot more to campaigning that making signs. During her campaign, she made whistle-stops until 11:30 p.m. and worked on posters until 1 to 1:30 a.m.
“I guess all of that was not in vain,” she said. “I did end up getting elected.”
Pankratz, meanwhile, was elected to the House of Representatives.
“The first few days were campaigning and learning what the offices were and how the elections would go,” Pankratz said.
During the campaigns, Pankratz attended rallies, in which she went against other parties. After the election on Thursday, the students attended a formal inaugural banquet.
On the last day of the event, the students went to Topeka to visit the offices to which they were elected.
“I got to visit Ron Thornburgh’s office,” D’Albini said. “I didn’t really understand a lot of what the secretary of state did.”
D’Albini also was involved in other activities while at Girls State. She performed a tap dance at the talent night, served as a reporter for her city, and was a police officer.
Pankratz spent the day in the House of Representatives room, where she got experience writing, debating and voting on bills.
“I enjoyed all of the people,” Pankratz said. “That was the most fun-meeting everyone.”
D’Albini also enjoyed being with the other girls.
“I still talk to the girls from my city,” she said. “I e-mail them all of the time. I have already gotten four letters from people. It was a lot of fun.”