Sunday, June 19, 2016

Buckeye Girls State 2016

My Time at Buckeye Girls State 2016

Juliana Discher

The ladies of Stowe City, LaBounty County
Buckeye Girls State is a week long program designed to educate young women about government functioning and what it means to be a good citizen. BGS pledges to teach more about state, county, and city government in one week than in a semester of high school. Through their immersive and hands on experience, I can attest to this claim. This year, the camp was held at University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. Through the sponsorship of the American Legion Auxiliary, I was given the privilege of attending the 70th annual session of Buckeye Girls State.

Day 1: Sunday, June 12

I came to camp with a lot of apprehension. I've been to many summer camps before--journalism camps, leadership camps, and soccer camps--yet I felt a pit of uncertainty in my stomach. The four hour drive from Mason to Alliance was occupied by meticulously rereading my packet, attempting to decide what position to run for, and stressing out over last minute details. Things took a turn for the better when I arrived on campus and was greeted by cheerful BGS workers donning bright red shirts. I was pleased by how quaint and lovely the campus was. After I registered, I climbed three flights of stairs in King Hall and unpacked. Stowe City, La Bounty County was my home for the week. I had no idea at the time that I would form such close knit and genuine relationships with the 35 other girls and 2 counselors belonging to Stowe City.

The first day flew by. We had our first city meeting and attempted to learn each other's names through a silly animal ice breaker. Juliana Japanese Water Beetle became acquainted with girls like Sadie Sheep and Maria Manatee. We had a nice opening ceremony where we were kindly greeted by the BGS coordinators and the 2015 BGS Governor, Claire DeBruin. The Naturalization Ceremony declared us citizens of BGS for the week. I had my first meal at Mount Union and I was thoroughly impressed by the variety and quality of food. The dessert--brownies, ice cream, and cookies--OH MY! Despite the initial nerves, day one was a success.

King Hall; my home for the week.
We had no A/C, but we survived.

Day 2: Monday, June 13

Today was the first of many where we had Flag Ceremony promptly at 7:15 AM. We said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem, shared an Auxiliary moment of the day, and had an inspirational quote to set the mood. Flag Ceremony strengthened my inner patriotism. It also taught me the proper way to say the pledge; when people say the line, "one nation under God" they typically pause after nation. Since there is no comma there, that's wrong. I had no idea I had been saying it incorrectly all these years. 

We were able to attend workshops of our choosing. In the Leadership and Campaigning session, our leader gave us great advice on how to campaign effectively. She taught us the art of the Elevator Speech and how to approach somebody when campaigning; be genuine, friendly, and upbeat. She also suggested to hand out business cards stating our name and position. I decided I wanted to run for Senator. My government teacher had done a unit on Congress and I liked the debate style in the Senate. Additionally, the idea of proposing legislation was appealing. I believe I'm aware of the needs of my constituents.

We had our first County Party Caucus and we brainstormed ideas for our party platform. In order to avoid the tension that could arise from breaking up into actual political parties, we were divided into Nationalists and Federalists. I was a Nationalist. Issues that were salient to us were education reform, the tampon tax, the wage gap, and environmental reform.
Emma (on the left) and I bonded over our passion for Ultimate Frisbee.
Maria (on the right) is a great dancer and has a big heart.
Stowe City was named after Harriet Beecher Stowe,
the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Day 3: Tuesday, June 14

During our County Party Caucus, I received the endorsement for Senator after delivering a short speech. I had to file a petition and pay a fee to get my name on the primary ballot. It was nice that our procedures for running for office were similar to the real life ones. Today was a big day for campaigning. I tried to find a balance between getting my name out there and not being too pushy.
I found it effective to just have genuine conversations with people. Quality over quantity was my goal in this case. Only after a heartfelt conversation would I mention that I wanted to 'Disch out the laws' as Senator. I learned so much from the other girls. Everyone was shocked when I told them I come from the largest public high school in Ohio with a class of 861. Many girls I talked to had class sizes smaller than 100. We all had diverse upbringings.
We were all from different regions of Ohio,
but Alliance was our home for the week.
My strong friend Trisha who did an amazing
job on State Highway Patrol.

Day 4: Wednesday, June 15

Election day! Self doubt would occasionally wash over me, but quickly be replaced by confidence. Even if I didn't get elected Senator, BGS has a 0% unemployment rate and finds a job for everyone. (If only America could say the same) The knowledge that there were other options settled my nerves. After the results from the Primary Election were posted, I was excited to see my name on the list. My campaign mate Mailani, who was also running for Senator, made it as well. During the County Caucus, we had an opportunity to introduce ourselves and share something interesting about us. I'm able to make a realistic sounding baby cry so I did that as my talent. People seemed slightly scared, but impressed by it.

After additional campaigning, General Elections went underway. During the State Caucus, the state level positions were announced. I was so excited for the three girls in my city who got state positions. I was disappointed that my good friend LeeAnn wasn't elected governor, but she handled it very maturely. She really impressed me. Out of the 18 girls who initially ran for Senator, I was one of the five lucky girls from my county to be elected. When Mailani saw both of our names on the election results sheet, she shrieked and gave me a bear hug. It was a moment of pure joy. 
Each night, we wrote 3 warm and fuzzy notes to people in our city.
Warm and fuzzies are compliments and notes of encouragement.
I absolutely loved writing and receiving them!
My roommate and I had to create a business and pay taxes for it.
Our hallway's theme was Olympics so we went with Rio de Janeiro.

Day 5: Thursday, June 16


Today was my first day on the job! This was one of my favorite days of the week. On a whim, I decided to run for Majority Whip within the Senate and I was elected. It was nice to have an additional leadership position. Before camp, I was aware that there was a code of conduct within Congress, but I wasn't knowledgeable on the specifics. I learned a lot about parliamentary procedure. For instance, when you want to table debate, you say "I move the previous question." It was cool how official we made things.


We were given the privilege of having three guest speakers bestow their wisdom upon us. The first was Greta Johnson, representative of the 35th district of the Ohio House of Representatives. Representative Johnson had an openness and confidence that I truly admired. She was down-to-earth, bubbly, and honest. I respected her liberal views and the feminist mentality she embraced. Even now as I view her Tweets on Twitter, I wholeheartedly hit the like button. One piece of advice she gave was that she "surround(s) (herself) with incredible and supportive women,". In society today, women need to back each other up and support one another.

Next, Christina Hagan, member of the Ohio House of Representatives for the 50th district, spoke to us. Representative Hagan is an inspiration to youth interested in pursuing high goals. At the mere age of 22, she was appointed to be a Representative. She is the youngest female to have ever served in Ohio's legislature. Hagan was still in college when she was campaigning for her seat in the House. She taught me with hard work and maturity, age doesn't matter if you're determined to achieve your goals. I respect her perseverance. 
Last, but not least, Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor spoke with us. I was astonished at the amount of protection and secret service she had to ensure her safety. Lt. Governor gave us three main points of advice: be prepared for opportunity, be passionate about what you do, and make every day count. She shared with us that she's giving serious consideration to running for Governor. I was grateful that she could take time out of her busy schedule to speak with us.


Representative Greta Johnson really inspired me. I look up to her as a woman role model
and as a government official. I was so lucky to have gotten a picture with her.
Representative Christina Hagan was extremely professional and moralistic.
Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor

Day 6: Friday, June 17

My second day on the job was even better.  I appreciated the mature level of debate and discussion that went on in the Senate. We passed legislation on issues such as body cams on police officers and tax exemptions for small businesses. We overrode two bills the governor had vetoed. It was nice to be able to band together and get that 2/3 vote necessary in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

To celebrate the week, we had a city party that lasted until 1 in the morning. We played Telephone Charades and had a blast. It began to hit me how much I would miss the girls of Stowe City. From chanting "S-T TO THE O-W-E" at the top of our lungs to cramming ten girls in a dorm room, there was never a dull moment. I formed an irreplaceable bond with this group of 35 girls. I would miss the sweet smile of Mailani, the angelic voice of Elena, the loyalty of Melissa, and all the other special traits each girl embraced.
The State Highway Patrol had a helicopter brought in for girls to explore.
My sweet friend Melissa. 
My toothbrush buddy Megan.
My beautiful friend LeeAnn, probably one of the funniest people I've ever met.
She ran an amazing campaign for Governor.
My kindhearted roommate Hannah.

Day 7: Saturday, June 18

During our closing ceremony we conducted a joint session of Congress to show all of the BGS girls what parliamentary procedure is like. BGS Director Carol T. Robinson announced I was one of the fifteen girls selected to move onto to the next level of the Senate Youth Program. I could potentially win a scholarship and get to travel to Washington D.C. to meet members of our national government. I was so honored when I heard my name.

The last day of camp was an emotional one. Although I was ready for air conditioning and the comfort of my own bed, this was an experience of a lifetime. There were some sad departures, but as I like to say "It's not a goodbye, but a see you later." 
The dream team of counselors, Marley and Lisa.
My Nationalist lanyard that I grew accustomed to

Thank You's:

  • Thank you so much to American Legion Post 194 for selecting and sponsoring me to attend this camp. You have given me an amazing opportunity and I am truly grateful.
  • Thank you to my amazing counselors, Marley Kennedy and Lisa Miller.
  • Thank you to the University of Mount Union for the wonderful stay. 
  • Thank you to Representative Johnson, Representative Hagan, and Lieutenant Governor Taylor for sparing time in your busy schedules to speak with us.
  • Thank you to my parents for encouraging me to pursue my passion for government
  • Thank you to my government teacher Chip Dobson for sparking my interest in Congress
  • Thank you to my AP Psychology teacher Angie Johnston for pushing me to apply
  • Thank you to the girls of Stowe City who I had the pleasure of befriending. You will all always have a special place in my heart and if you ever need anything, I will be there for you girls.