The 71st session of Dirigo Girls State is underway at Husson University in Bangor.
High school girls from all over the state will be participating this week.
Katelyn Walsh of Hermon High School says, “This program is so important to young women because we aren’t given as many opportunities to learn about government and we aren’t encouraged to go on that career path as much as young men are.”
According to the Center for American Women and Politics, in 2017 women make up 25 percent of the state legislature.
Matthew Dunlap, Maine Secretary of State says, “Women in particular are under represented in government and they make up more than 50 percent of the demographic, so they have a very definite stake in what it means to be involved in government.”
Dirigo Girls State is a week long program for girls who have completed their junior year of high school and are considered leaders in the classroom and their community.
The youth citizenship program offers training in the process of self-government and good citizenship.
Andrea Stairs-Davenport, Education Director says, “Everything is done in a simulation model so they actually go through the process of electing town, county, and state officials and working on legislation while they’re here.”
The girls get to hear from several guest speakers, including Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and Senator Angus King.
Savannah Green of Gardiner Area High School says, “We’re not only high school students, we’re teenage girls and I think it’s really important for us to hear from powerful women, powerful men, and feel that inspiration.”
The hope is more young women will have the urge to get involved in some form of government.
Stairs-Davenport says, “As they come to the age of majority next year and turn 18, we really want them to get registered to vote, to be involved in any way. It may be small like a local school board or they may decide to run for Governor of the state of Maine one day.”
Green says she can see having a career in government.
She says, “I definitely do. Mostly, because I can’t stay quiet about issues and I really want to make the world a better place.”