In only a week, the young women who are attending the American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer Girls State on the Lipscomb University campus May 26-June 1 are learning lessons that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Volunteer Girls State is a recurring event each summer on the campus of for the past four years.
“The compact nature of the university, the high level of customer service, and the beauty of the campus really adds to our program.” said Jessica Taveau, a Volunteer Girls State staffer.
Every year, as many as 550 girls come from the cities and towns of the surrounding areas to Lipscomb’s campus for the one-week program built around leadership and citizenship-training. As a part of the program, the girls engage in running mock governments and benefit from interacting with other female leaders their own age. Each activity that is planned is intended to show the girls how to be an upstanding citizen, help them become leaders, and encourage each girl to take pride in their state in which they come from and their country.
“They are building mock city states and county governments in order to learn how they can engage in their communities and change the community for the better,” said Taveau.
As a part of Volunteer Girls State, a variety of speakers are asked to come and deliver a speech to the girls. On May 28, Governor Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, came to speak in Collins Alumni Auditorium. The speech was presented in question and answer format, which gave the girls an opportunity to ask questions to Haslam later on in the program.
When asked if Haslam actually liked being governor, he said “It’s an incredible honor. I don’t take it lightly. Everyday I walk into the office and think ‘This is a big deal.’”
Questions that focused on women in politics were one of the subjects that were presented. “Having people with different perspectives and histories really does make a difference,” said Haslam. “The more different perspectives we can bring to the table, the more capable we are to serve.”
Haslam also provided the girls with tips to apply to their lives., the first of those being to work hard. Along with advice, Haslam told the crowd that there are "two types of people in world: the people who think 'Here I am,' and the ones who think 'there you are.'"
When asked how he and his wife balance that philosophy, Crissy Haslam said,“We have to remind ourselves who we really are.”
In the end, the most important thing that Taveau said she wants the girls to take away from Volunteer Girls State is that they can make a positive impact on their community.
“Each one of these girls can go back to their community, be a leader, and make a positive impact," she said, "and really make the change that they want to see happen, whatever that may be.”