OPINION: A Call for Funding for the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State


By Shreya Prabhu

When my parents dropped me off at the University of New Haven for the prestigious Connecticut Laurel Girls State Program, I was overjoyed at the prospect of meeting girls who were equally passionate about female empowerment, local politics, and the armed forces.

Over the course of the week, this idea I had in mind of connecting with like-minded girls blossomed to life. I became close with those in my town, party, and eventually members of the House of Representatives.

On the first day, each girl was introduced to a small town of about twenty people—mine was Crawford Crossing—and we stood for local elections. We discussed how to better the education system, decrease unemployment, and boost economic productivity.

The next day, I was introduced to my assignment as a member of the Nationalist Party, where I got the opportunity to meet more incredible girls from other towns and stand for elections again. Again, we engaged in meaningful debate as we created our party platform, wrote rules, and designed cheers for the rally.

However, amongst this productivity and the creation of our state of Laurel, there was a backdrop of gender inequality tainting our experience at the program.

By the second day of the program, it had become clear that there were clear discrepancies between the Boys and Girls State Program.

It started when we saw boys with high-quality binders, while we only had a packet that was exposed to damage because of the rain on multiple occasions. I noticed that, while I was told to dress up in business casual for the duration of the program, there were boys that wore athletic wear for entire days. What’s more is I was dress coded for the first time in my life—I was told that I couldn’t wear shorts—when most boys wore shorts everyday to their events. I was even approached by a male counselor who commented on a girl’s clothing choices. I was told on the first day that I needed a female buddy whenever I walked on the campus and even to the bathroom—a safety measure—but I saw boys roaming around the campus individually in the late hours of the night.

We were pushed over the edge when it came to our attention that the boys were allowed to order from food delivery services such as UberEats and DoorDash, while we did not have access to this luxury.

It is important to recognize how far the programs have come. This year was an attempt at integrating Boys and Girls State through joint legislatures, opening ceremonies, and speaker sessions. These programs had historically occurred at different times on different campuses. This attempt was quite successful, but because of the direct comparison that occurred as a result, we were able to identify the aforementioned discrepancies. The Girls State Program itself has also come far—last year a petition was passed for girls to have the opportunity to play sports during the recreation period, an opportunity that only the boys had before. However, there is more that can be done to ensure equality between the programs.

Most of the differences between Boys and Girls State boil down to funding. Boys State is sponsored by the American Legion (which has a greater name recognition) and can receive funding from the state. On the other hand, Girls State is sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary and can only fundraise for their program. It was explained that these two organizations are fundamentally different, and therefore the technicalities make it difficult for them to match each other in funding and programming.

It is clear that students of Boys and Girls State understood the inequalities between the program. In fact, in the joint House of Representatives, a boy introduced a bill about integrating the two programs. While most of us were open to the idea, it quickly became evident that it is impossible to integrate the programs because they are sponsored by different organizations.

So, this is a call for funding for Girls State. If the programs cannot become integrated, they should at least be matched in funding. All the girls attending Girls State are intelligent leaders of their schools and communities and deserve to be treated as such. Along with this increase in funding, this program dedicated to female empowerment should empower women by eliminating their dress coding policies and the buddy system. If these changes are made, Girls State will grow and so will the leaders that go through the program.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to criticize Boys or Girls State, but rather to bring attention to the discrepancies between the programs. These are all my personal experiences and opinions.