Marija Bekafigo, a political science professor at The University of Southern Mississippi, addressed more than 230 young women June 6 at the 2012 American Legion Auxiliary Girls State. Her presentation focused on the importance of voting and understanding the inner workings of American democracy.
Girls State is a weeklong program that gives rising high school seniors an opportunity to learn about the political process through hands-on activities such as crafting simulated legislation and organizing campaigns for elected office in the fictitious state of “Magnolia.”
Bekafigo believes the first-hand experience Girls State delegates get through the program will aid them in becoming politically-minded citizens in their communities. She also noted the importance of developing relationships as an important benefit of participating in Girls State.
“The girls may not realize it now, but the friendships and acquaintances they make at Girls State really will prove to be great networking possibilities later on in life,” she said.
Jordan Carwyle of Pontotoc, a senior at North Pontotoc Attendance Center, said her experience as a delegate to Girls State has been enlightening with regard to the complexity of the process of politics.
“I never realized how many technicalities there were,” Carwyle said. “We had to write a bill as a group and we really had to be specific. It’s like a recipe - if you leave one thing out it’s not going to work.”
Ayanna Crear of Moss Point, a senior at Moss Point High, said she was impressed with Bekafigo’s presentation and motivated by her encouragement for the delegates to be politically active.
“Her enthusiasm was inspiring,” Crear said. “I really love listening to people speak, especially when you can tell they have a passion for what they do.”