Good Hope High School’s Skylar Tucker participated in Girls State in Tuscaloosa in June. Hers was the first bill that passed during the mock session. (Photo courtesy of Skylar Tucker)
GOOD HOPE – Every year, high schools in Alabama have the choice to send two 11th graders (one boy and one girl) to Boys State and Girls State, programs sponsored by the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, respectively. The prestigious programs allow students to participate in a “model state,” complete with governing bodies and elected officials.
This year, a Good Hope student named Skylar Tucker was responsible for the very first bill that was passed during Girls State, held in June on the campus of The University of Alabama.
Tucker's bill proposed that the state of Alabama hold a lottery to pay for college tuition and fund resource officers in public school systems, with college tuition being offered to underprivileged students first.
"My lottery bill would be funded in arrears, which means it would bring in money for a year before it started giving out money so that each year we knew just how much we had to give," Tucker said. "This bill would start in 2020 and would start giving out money in the year of 2021. Seventy-five percent of the money would go to college tuition and 25 percent would go to the resource officers."
The bill was the first of this year's program to be passed through the House and the Senate.
According to Tucker, being nominated for the program is a high honor.
"While I was down there, the speakers would tell us that we were the top of the top or the cream of the crop. They would tell us that we were the future leaders for Alabama," she said.
Nominations had to be made by the school, and nomination criteria required "being a great student with a great attitude and showing great leadership skills."
For those lucky enough to be nominated, Boys State and Girls State can be the start of incredible friendships as well as a lesson in politics.
"Every morning we woke up and did a flag ceremony and prayer. Then we started our day with a speaker and then we split up into either House or Senate or Federalist and Nationalist Party. We held meetings and did debates using the parliamentary procedure," Tucker recalled. "I met four amazing girls that were so talented, and they ended up becoming my best friends. We met on the second day and we automatically connected in ways that I never have connected with a friend. Till this day we still all have a group chat and are planning to meet up in a couple of weeks."
Tucker believes that Girls State is a wonderful learning opportunity – not just for learning about government, but also life lessons.
"I learned that no matter who you are, you have a voice and your voice deserves to be heard, but you have to remember that others have a voice and their opinion is just as important as yours. So I always say now: listen first and then speak," she stated. "I also learned that as young adults, and even as kids, we need to have a good support system. This support systems helps you get through what you think is impossible. Normally this support system starts at school with your administration, teachers and friends. Teachers make such a huge impact on kids and how we view the future. I heard from the teacher of the year in 2015, and she said she always tried to get to know her kids and she was like a second mom to them. This is what kids need!"
Find out more at www.alabamagirlsstate.org and http://alboysstate.org.
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