Military teens experience how state, federal government work

ALA Aloha Girls State delegates meet with Rep. Della Au Belatti, Hawaii’s state House vice speaker, (center) about the issues affecting Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Brister Thomas

Don Robbins

Ho‘okele Editor

Teens from military families in Hawaii are among those who participated in this year’s American Legion Auxiliary of Hawaii (ALA) Aloha Girls State program.

Moanalua High School students Abigal Horan, the newly elected ALA Aloha Girls State governor, and her sister, Felicity Horan, are daughters of military parents.

Felicity Horan and student Sienna Byrne from Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the island of Hawaii also represented the state of Hawaii as senators for the competitive ALA Girls Nation program in Washington, D.C. during the month of July. Byrne was also elected lieutenant governor of ALA Aloha Girls State.

Felicity Horan and Byrne drafted a resolution to promote integration of improved processing of immigrants and presented it on the floor for debate during American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Girls Nation.

“This past week has given me such a positive attitude towards the future of women in government and leadership positions in general. The other girls there were not only intelligent but very supportive of one another and vastly differing view points,” Byrne said after representing the state in Washington, D.C.

She felt her biggest accomplishment was making a point to participate as much as possible in the senate sessions.

“It was initially scary to get up in front of everyone, but after a week of doing this I am confident in my public speaking abilities,” Byrne said.

Felicity Horan said, “The week at Girls Nation was amazing because I had the opportunity to meet 98 other girls from every state who shared the same passions and patriotism towards our country.”

“From this opportunity I learned why it is so important for women to prove that they can participate in government and that they shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for what they believe is right, even if they are the minority.”

Horan said she felt that her biggest accomplishment was definitely to run for an elected position.

“At first I was scared because I didn’t feel qualified enough, and almost didn’t run. But when I heard my name as the party secretary for my party, I was so excited and glad that I chose to run. Also, the other girls in my party were so supportive of my decision and election,” Horan said. Felicity Horan is the daughter of retired Col. David Horan and Belgica Horan.

“The two girls that went to D.C. accomplished huge feats! I am still in awe that they had such powerful roles at national,” said Brister Thomas, the program’s director.

“ALA Aloha Girls States elected two high school juniors to represent the state at ALA Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. They toured our nation’s highlights, got to meet President Trump and participated in a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Thomas said.

The ALA Aloha Girls State and Girls Nation program is focused on nonpartisan political learning experience for select female students who have just completed their junior year in high school.

Every spring, across the United States, every state selects students to convene in a hands-on, educational opportunity designed to instruct tomorrow’s leaders in the privileges and duties of responsible citizenship.

ALA Aloha Girls State delegates gather for a mock government experience to learn parliamentary procedure, campaign, hold rallies, debate and ultimately vote to elect city, county and state officials.

This year’s program included speakers from the government and private sectors and included a full schedule for the delegates, learning firsthand how the state of Hawaii government operates.

Delegates met with Rep. Della Au Belatti, Hawaii’s state House vice speaker about the issues affecting Hawaii today.

“It is nice to see a time where young women feel they can have a voice to be heard. Women do not see themselves as electable and we need to work together to recruit women. Be students of history and continue the ALA Girls State. It is a great opportunity to learn leadership and practice your skills,” Au Belatti said to the high school students.

In addition, Jaime Hearther, a delegate the 2017 ALA Aloha Girls State, was awarded the Samsung State Scholarship. Hearther, a military family member, was selected due to her dedication to community service and scholastic performance.

She now moves on to the national competition and will vie for the $10,000 award. “Her positive energy and incredibly dedication to her fellow delegates placed her well among the top in the state for this prestigious award. We are very proud of her,” said Haylie Culp, program chairman.

The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) is the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, Thomas said. For nearly a century, the American Legion Auxiliary has been serving, helping, and meeting the needs of the nation’s veterans, military, and their families, both here and abroad.

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Category: News