April 21, 2019  

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American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Delegates Elect Officials for state of “Magnolia”

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American Legion Auxiliary Girls State officer for 2018 include, from left: l to r: Leila de Gruy, Governor; of Jackson; Cari Sims, Lt. Governor, of Vancleave; Carol Maya Wiltshire, Attorney General, of Liberty; Lila Osman, Secretary of State, of Ocean Springs; Rachel Canup, State Treasurer, of Fulton; Anna Taylor, State Auditor, of Ocean Springs; Madeline Lee, Commissioner of Insurance, of Vicksburg; Jacey Eldridge, Commissoner of Agriculture, of Vaiden.

It takes more than one person to make a big impact in politics.

That’s the key lesson Leila de Gruy of Jackson has learned from being a delegate to the 2018 American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) of Mississippi’s Girls State, the 70th edition of the weeklong event where rising high school seniors come together to learning about the mechanics of federal, state and local government through simulated political campaigns, legislative and judicial processes, city and county governments in the fictitious state of “Magnolia.”

State and local government officials also come to the event to discuss public service, issues of the day, and how the average citizen can make a difference through their participation in our representative democracy. For the 31st year in a row, Girls State was held on the Hattiesburg campus of The University of Southern Mississippi.

de Gruy was elected governor of Girls State by her peer delegates, following a campaign and political rally in which nominees made their pitch for why they should be elected to the state offices they sought.

“It has been really exciting to be a part of this,” de Gruy said. “Any one of these amazing girls could be governor, and I’m so honored that they chose me.” After graduating from St. Joseph Catholic School, de Gruy said she plans to study political science and public policy in college, then secure a law degree and pursue a career as a public defender. She said she draws inspiration from her parents, who both work in the public sector.

Others elected to top offices in the state of "Magnolia" include Cari Sims, Lieutenant Governor, of Vancleave; Carol Maya Wiltshire, Attorney General, of Liberty; Lila Osman, Secretary of State, of Ocean Springs; Rachel Canup, State Treasurer, of Fulton; Anna Taylor, State Auditor, of Ocean Springs; Madeline Lee, Comm. of Insurance, of Vicksburg; and Jacey Eldridge, Commissioner of Agriculture, of Vaiden. Girls Nation Senators include Neilee Marie James of Hattiesburg and Mia Catherine Robertson of Starkville.

de Gruy said Girls State taught her that engagement by the citizenry, even at the smallest levels, is needed to make things happen. “It really takes all the people of a city, county or state to come together in order to make a difference,” she said. 

Angela Kilcrease of Tylertown, who serves as director of Mississippi Girls State, said this year’s delegates impressed her with their passion and teamwork. “They really showed me this week that if they pursue a career in public service, they have what it takes to make their mark in a positive way that we can all be proud of,” Kilcrease said. 

Learn more about American Legion Auxiliary Girls State, visit https://www.alaforveterans.org/ALA-Girls-State/.