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Rigel builds confidence, skills at Girls State

August 2, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

North Tama High School was represented at Girls State at Drake University July 16 through July 23 by two students entering their senior years: Sabryna Rigel and DaLynn Pokorny. The Traer Star-Clipper interviewed both girls for a two-part series, concentrating on their experiences at Girls State. We will begin with Sabryna Rigel, who was nominated by the Traer American Legion Auxiliary.

For Sabryna Rigel, applying for Girls State was a no-brainer. The North Tama upperclassmen already was considering a career in the military, and the prospect of learning and engaging in a government environment peaked her interest. Like many of her classmates, Rigel wrote a short essay for the American Legion Auxiliary, who sponsors the event and the local chapter selects who attends the event.

"They wanted to see where we wanted to be in our future, how we planned to achieve our goals and how what we would learn at Girls State could be used in our everyday life," Rigel said. "At Girls State, you learn about different forms of local and state government. I wanted to learn how the process works and how they affect the entire state. You have to know how government works and because you can't be unprepared."

Article Photos

Sabryna Rigel (front row, 2nd to right) and her group before taking part in a mock trial to demonstrate a function of government at Girls State. Photo submitted.

According to Cindy Youel, who recruits the students for the Auxiliary, Girls State is run by the American Legion Auxiliary here in Iowa and is a "great experience to learn about how city government works as far as elections." They spend a week at Drake University with 200 girls who explore many different avenues of government.

"We send out an invitation to each of the girls in the junior class in November or December asking them to submit a short essay on why they want to go to Girls State," Youel said. "The opportunity is paid for by the local Auxiliary. A committee of officers vote on who goes and sometimes they have enough money to send more than one girl."

Rigel, a native of Traer, was selected this year by members of the Traer Legion Auxiliary, who reviewed her essay and voted to pay for her expenses to Girls State.

"What stood out to the committee with Sabryna was her interest in government and going into the military like her older sisters," Youel said. "She wants to learn as much as she can to serve her country."

From July 16-23, Rigel joined her peers in Des Moines, forming "towns" with a group she'd grow close to over the week. A House of Representatives and Senate were also formed. The group learned how essential government is in daily life and just how complex it can be. According to Rigel, there was a lot of confusion among groups at first, but the girls learned as they went through the week together. They toured the Capitol building on the third day of Girls State and learned the history of the building. Rigel and her new friends even got to sit behind the Iowa Supreme Court benches.

The week also covered topics on a national level as well. Rigel and her group learned more about the differences between Nationalism and Federalism on the fourth day and took part in elections for their "town" groups. Inauguration took place late in the week as their time began to wind down. Each town presented plans for their towns to their House of Representatives and Senate.

"There's a lot of creativity involved in this part of the week," Rigel said. "We had to make sure these plans could be approved by the city and state governments. The Inauguration capped off everything with our Governor and Lt. Governor being elected."

Between speaking, brainstorming with her new friends and being involved in something bigger than herself, Rigel felt she left Drake with many skills she can use going forward, especially with public speaking.

"Over time, I got more and more comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd," Rigel said. "Even if you mess up, you have to keep going. It was really hard at first. You have to be determined with your speaking so people can hear and understand you."

At the very beginning of Girls State, attendees were told the bonds they formed over the course of the week would be ones they remembered for years, and tears were a normal occurrence during the final day. Indeed for Rigel's group, there were hard goodbyes said.

"I got close to many of the girls in my town group," Rigel said. "We still talk even after Girls State because this experience meant a lot to each of us. We made new friends, experience government and learned how to have a strong mind, strong heart."

Rigel will enter her senior year with a new understanding of government, a new confidence in her public speaking skills and believes others can also benefit from Girls State much like she did.

"I encourage any junior girl to apply for Girls State because it truly puts you out of your comfort zone while having fun," Rigel said. "It's inspiring to their lives and how they see their everyday activities as well as how they see government."

Check back with the Traer Star-Clipper next week for our feature on DaLynn Pokorny's adventure at Girls State.



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