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Arkansas Girls State ... Helping teen girls learn about government

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

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MAMMOTH SPRING -- This summer, Mammoth Spring senior Melanie Maguffee was chosen to take part in an event few young ladies in the area have the opportunity to experience. She applied for and was accepted to Arkansas Girls State.

Girls State was held June 3-8 at Harding University at Searcy. Darla York from the Salem Drug Company at Salem was Maguffee's sponsor.

This year's Arkansas Girls State had more participants than any other Girls State in the country with over 800 girls from across the state attending.

"Our dorm was our county. I was in Talbert County. We were all split into Federalist and Nationalist. I was a Federalist," Maguffee said.

While there Maguffee ran for the city and county offices of Ward I Alderman, Federalist Party Secretary, a delegate to the county convention and county surveyor. She was elected to all four positions.

"I learned a lot about government and other areas I didn't know much about," Maguffee said.

She said one of the most interesting sessions of the week was mock bills. "Two of the interesting mock bills was one that asked whether or not people under 18 riding a motorcycle should wear a helmet or not. Another interesting bill was if people who buy and drive hybrid vehicles should be exempt from paying taxes," she said.

Maguffee said Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe performed the swearing in ceremony for Chassidy Bozeman, newly elected governor of Arkansas Girls State as well as every other city, county and state leaders at the event.

"Governor Beebe told us our generation needs to worry about the future of this country because of our own future. He said the generation in government now has already made their careers and are nearing retirement, so the decisions made today will affect mostly future generations," she said.

Maguffee said Beebe stressed education. "He said education is the door to opportunity, but delegates must give back to the state by being active in the political process," she said.

Lt. Governor Bill Halter also spoke to the delegates. "He told us he was anxious for our generation to take charge because he believes that our generation will take Arkansas to the national average and beyond. He said Arkansas had been 49th in too many things for too long," she said.

Maguffee said Halter also said her generation will be the one that breaks through the barriers of race and gender.

Arkansas State Treasurer Martha Shoffner was also a speaker. "She told us Arkansas needs more women in politics. She said our state went four years without having a women in a constitutional office after having one every year since 1968. She said Girls State offered hope," Maguffee said.

"I had a blast. There was only one girl I knew when I got there. I met a lot of people from across the state and learned a lot of things," she said.

Maguffee is the daughter of Bob and Shanna Maguffee of Mammoth Spring.

Girls State across the United States is sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.

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