Excellence in Education: Local teens selected to attend Girls Nation

Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 5:33 PM EDT
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - In this week’s Excellence in Education report sponsored by Davis & Elkins College, we are highlighting two local teens who were selected to attend Girls Nation.

Breanna Waldron from East Fairmont High School and Kennedy Bealko from Bridgeport High School are spending the week in Washington, D.C. after being selected to attend Girls Nation.

Waldron and Bealko say they’re excited to represent our community on a national stage.

“I think it feels like when we come from a state that’s so overlooked, people don’t really think about it,” Waldron said. “I’ve had people come up to me and be like ‘Oh, I forgot about West Virginia’, but we get to prove we’re coming from a state of Appalachia. We’re still here to make a difference sharing our voices and adding a different perspective some people might not have.”

“It’s really awesome to get the opportunity to take control of that narrative and talk about West Virginia in a positive light instead of perpetuating the negativity I thought would have been very prevalent here,” Bealko said.

Rhododendron Girls State Director Rosemary Thomas says the two stood out among the 200 girls who attended Girls State this year because of their leadership and involvement.

“We invite each community to elect the outstanding citizens from their community. So each community this year, we had eight, elected two young ladies who were their outstanding citizens for the week, and that was really a reflection of all that they had put into the week and all the time that they had given to, to take the time to learn, to help one another, and to really grow as individuals who are interested in government and citizenship and patriotism,” Thomas said.

After the girls were elected as Outstanding Citizens by their communities, they were first asked to give an impromptu speech on stage. They drew a question on topics like leadership and patriotism and answered them in front of their peers. Then, they participated in a one-on-one interview process and were chosen from there.

While attending Girls Nation, the selected students, called Senators, will participate in a mock legislature, writing, debating, and passing bills and resolutions. They will also visit D.C.’s monuments and meet with West Virginia’s federal elected officials in their offices to discuss topics they have learned and debated throughout the week.

Thomas says, much like Girls State. Girls Nation is a week that can leave an impact.

“The Girls Nation program is just an extremely special opportunity for young ladies, and it’s something that will make a difference to them, I know, for a lifetime,” Thomas said.

The American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation will run until July 29. This is Girls Nation’s 76th year.