Caitlyn Mathews, 17, rising Mundelein High School senior, has been elected to Girls Nation for a weeklong all-expenses paid trip sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. Girls Nation, the highly selective federal-level component of the Girls State program, operates like a mock federal government with elections for federal-level offices and selection of a supreme court. Participants learn caucusing and debating skills and draft legislation. The program, now 79 years running, also includes visits to historic sites including Arlington National Cemetery and national memorials, meetings with federal legislators and a session with President Trump in the Rose Garden.
The American Legion Auxiliary-sponsored program begins at the state level. More than 300 girls met in June at Eastern Illinois University to operate a mock state-level government.
Mundelein High School selected Caitlyn Mathews and MacKenzie Stewart, for the program.
The process to be elected to Girls Nation involves multiple levels of interviews. “Initially, I wanted to go to Girls State to meet new people and go through the legislative process,“ Mathews said. “But I was motivated by the girls I met.” Mathews gained support from peers by inviting their comments on legislation to make the November election date a federal holiday. In a question-and-answer session in front of all 300 Girls State representatives, Caitlyn was asked how she would manage the influx of refugees. “I suggested that American families volunteer to house refugees who are vetted.”
Only two Girls State delegates from each state are elected to act as Girls Nation senators. Caitlyn will be joined by Kendra Kelly from New Baden in the southwestern corner of the state.
Girls State and Girls Nation carry honored traditions. Arlene Lolley is president of Mundelein Unit 867 which sponsored the two Mundelein High School students and four additional junior girls from Grayslake this year, “There are very few programs like this for young women that offer opportunities for personal development in the areas of oratorical and networking skills. We are proud of the fact that Girls State and Girls Nation have constructed a framework for women to learn leadership and good citizenship practice.” Lolley, a Hainesville resident, has been involved in the American Legion Auxiliary for 30 years. LaVera Davis of North Chicago is the Lake County director of the Girls State program.
The Mundelein unit 867 Girls State participants are funded by donations from local businesses including Mundelein Community Bank, Liberty Auto City and DoubleTree by Hilton Mundelein. This is the second time in three years that a Mundelein High School students was selected to attend Girls Nation.