State your purpose

New Mexico high school students were making their own rules this week but not before passing them through congressional houses in a series of lively debates.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Bianca Soliz, center, governor of New Mexico Girls State, writes her speech Thursday afternoon for that evening's inaugural ball. She enlisted the help of Darci Roe, left, and Kayleigh Wood.

Junior girls from across the state came to Eastern New Mexico University for a taste of government and leadership experience as the university served as home to the 66th session of New Mexico Girls State, an American Legion Auxiliary program.

The program allows the girls to form cities and counties to learn about government structure.

"It teaches them about government infrastructure, leadership and gives hand-on experience all crammed into a great week," said Program Director Alisha Jones, a former girls-stater. "You don't have to be into government, you just have to want to be a leader."

Jones said it's typical for her to see students come out of their shell in the course of a week in an environment that challenges them.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Bianca

Soliz, center, governor of New Mexico Girls State, writes her speech

Thursday afternoon for that evening's inaugural ball. She enlisted the

help of Darci Roe, left, and Kayleigh Wood. Below: Girls State Lt. Gov.

Hannah Thornton, second to right, bangs her gavel down to adjourn a

senate session

Jones said the program gives students the opportunity to meet with other young women, which can create an empowering experience, giving them courage to do things they wouldn't normally do such as run for office.

"Some of these girls have never left their city or stayed in a dorm," Jones said. "They can start out shy and be dancing by the end of the week at the talent show. It brings out the leader in all of us."

Here's what the students had to say about the laws they'd create after a week of mock elections and lawmaking:

Name: Darci Roe

High school: Goddard High School in Roswell

Position at Girls State: Chief city councilman for Cactus City

Career goal: Geriatric physician

A law she'd create: I'm interested in education and I think we're required to take too many classes. So I'd create a law to make certain classes optional. I think that would help the education department out and I'd also pass laws to make education stronger at the high school level.

Name: Bianca Soliz

High school: Loving High School

Position at Girls State: Governor

Career goal: Journalist

A law she'd create: I'd require gun safety be taught in schools. They overly stress to children not to play with fire, they could do the same thing for firearms.

Name: Kayleigh Wood

High school: Southwest Learning Centers in Albuquerque

Position at Girls State: Junior councilor (Governor of last year's Girls State)

Career goal: Midwife

A law she'd create: I would enforce mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. It's just to mandate that our money isn't being wasted.

Name: Samantha Ward

High school: Estancia High School

Position at Girls State: Governor's bodyguard

Career goal: To join the U.S. armed forces.

A law she'd create: I would pass a law that would stabilize the lottery scholarships in New Mexico and increase funding for education so that it would offer an opportunity for students who can't normally afford college. Education is everything in this world.

Name: Brandy Garcia

High school: Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque

Position at Girls State: Cactus City treasurer

Career goal: Cosmetologist

A law she'd create: I would create a law that would minimize all the testing we have to take as seniors. I had to take my AP (advanced placement) tests, end-of-course exams and finals all around the same time. It was so much work to handle.

Name: Victoria Herron

High school: Southwest Learning Centers in Albuquerque

Position at Girls State: State auditor

Career goal: Accountant

A law she'd create: I'd create a law that would require food companies to label their products that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). It's bad because people don't know what they're eating.

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