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California American Legion Girl’s State perseveres in Nevada County

Submitted to The Union

The 77th American Legion Auxiliary California Girl’s State Conference was in full swing in March of 2020 all set to welcome more than 500 high school junior girls from all over California to the campus of Claremont McKenna college for a week-long endeavor of learning about our state’s government system. These girls, being the only ones selected from their perspective high schools, would have been broken in the four counties of Brown, Dorsey, McMahon and Marshall and each county broken into five cities. The girls in each city would have been housed together in a dorm at the college arriving as strangers but leaving as the best of friends.

Each summer, approximately 20,000 young women from across the nation participate in the weeklong A.L.A Girl’s State Program. Every American Legion Auxiliary Girl’s State Program operates with the same patriotic values through a nonpartisan curriculum where students assume the roles of government leaders, campaigning as “Federalists” and “Nationalists” to become mayors, county and state officials of their particular Girl’s State. The program is an immersive learning experience which typically creates memories and friendships that last a lifetime.

A.L.A. Girl’s State Programs are funded by the American Legion Auxiliary and the American Legion, with additional support provided by various civic and nonprofit organizations. Local funding is provided by the Grass Valley American Legion Auxiliary Unit 130 operated out of the Frank Gallino Post 130. This support is with the help of various nonprofit organizations such as the High Sierra Corvette Club, the Nevada City Elks, and various other private parties.

But with the onset of COVID-19, like many large gatherings, the in-person conference was canceled. With the determination and spunk of the American Legion women, they quickly transformed the conference into a one-day Town Hall meeting. With the support of the counselors and City Moms, the 500 girls were still able to meet and get to know each other from their cities, write a bill and learn more how our great state operates.

Locally, Nevada County has been participating in the conference for decades. The four girls selected for last year’s conference — Sarah Kellermann from Nevada Union High School, Niko Coonen from Ghidotti Early College High School, Maddie Meilinger from Bear River High School, and Savannah Chavez from Forest Lake Christian High School — all participated in the one-day Town Hall meeting.

“From the Girl’s State experience I learned about how diverse the state of California is and how much hope there is for my generation for leading in the future and even now. I also learned how we can get along with new people even when it is just over Zoom,” said Sarah Kellermann.

This year the 78th American Legion Girl’s State Conference is also being presented in a virtual format but the great women behind the conference (some who had never heard of Zoom before March 2020) have put together a week-long conference June 28 – July 3, 2021 to promote sisterhood, civic engagement and patriotism. The girl’s will still build an ideal city government, run legislative sessions create and campaign for propositions and support the moto of “Service Above Self.” This year’s candidates will be Aneka Torgrinsom from Nevada Union High School, Orma Jean Forest from Ghidotti Early College Education, and Sadie Cuniberti from Forest Lake Christian.

Since 1947, more than 6,000 politically astute young women have attended Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington D.C., gleaning a firsthand glimpse of the inner workings of federal government and a chance to experience civics and American government via personal participation. Each year two girls are selected from each state program to attend the Girls Nation Conference.

All of these young women should be proud to have been selected as well as proud to persevere through these times and participate in a Zoom conference after going through a year where their academics have been primarily in a virtual format. It gives hope and shows that even through tough times, our youth can withstand the storm.

Source: Kris M. Gedney, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 130, Girl’s State Chair


Maddie Meilinger (Bear River): Will be attending Sierra College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology/Exercise Sciences

Sarah Kellermann (Nevada Union): Will be attending UC Santa Cruz to study biochemistry and molecular biology

Savannah Chavez (Forest Lake Christian): Currently attending Sierra College and will be transferring to UC Davis Veterinary Program

Nikolena Croonen (Ghidotti Early College Education)


Sadie Cuniberti: Forest Lake Christian

Orma Jean Forest: Ghidotti Early College Education

Aneka Torgrimson: Nevada Union

Maddie Meilinger, 2020 Bear River Delegate
Savannah Chavez, 2020 Forest Lake Delegate
Nikolena Coonen, 2020 Ghidotti Delegate
Sarah Kellermann, 2020 Nevada Union Delegate
Sadie Cuniberti, 2021 Forest Lake Christian Delegate
Orma Jean Forest, 2021 Ghidotti Early College Delegate
Aneka Torgrimson, 2021 Nevada Union Delegate
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