MILTON, Ga. — Rising Milton senior Jillian Huels decided to join the American Legion Auxiliary’s Georgia Girls State elections to learn more about the process of government and the role of elected officials. Just four days later, she was elected to the highest position in the state, governor, from a field of 280 girls from around the state.
Though she was not a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Huels was nominated by her history teacher for her proficiency in leadership, her interest in government and her dedication in the classroom. She decided to use the opportunity to experience the process of elections and the role elected officials play in everyday life. After the experience, she said she will be joining the American Legion Auxiliary to gain further knowledge.
From June 11-16 at the state event, held at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Huels immersed herself in government, politics and campaigning, eventually winning her party’s nomination for governor and the governor’s race.
“I never realized how much there was to it,” Huels said.
The election process at the event was similar to that of real government with nominees campaigning for positions, securing party nominations and bills put up for vote. But quite different from the real thing, the entire process took just a few days.
When Huels decided to run for governor, she first had to secure 10 signatures from others at the event.
“Ten signatures doesn’t sound that hard, but when there are 280 girls there and 40 are running for governor, it’s difficult to get 10 signatures,” she said.
After securing her signatures, Huels won in a race of six candidates for her party’s election, which included giving a speech, before running for governor.
Huels also presented a bill, dubbed the “Menstrual Equity Act for All for 2017.” Her bill would provide menstrual hygiene products to women who cannot afford them.
“I feel it is humiliating to these women that have to experience that,” she said. “I believe my bill to be very important in that it provides these women access to these products that are sometimes viewed as a luxury. They are a basic necessity just like toilet paper being provided in bathrooms.”
The state event was certainly a crash course in government, but Huels said she loved it.
“I wanted to experience it so I could get a better understanding of government,” she said. “It was something I really got engaged in and was thankful for the new perspective I was able to develop.”
The event also gave Huels an appreciation for the processes of government and elected officials.
“It enabled me to see how influential [elected officials] are in our modern day down to our local government. It definitely created an appreciation of all they do for our community, all they contribute and how much they care,” she said.
She was also thankful to the volunteers of the American Legion Auxiliary who made the event possible, and she hopes they can open others’ eyes to the workings of government.
The experience she gained from the state event was one of many for Huels, who is also an a recipient of the “Cum Laude” award for a top-20 score on the National Mythology Exam, an officer with the Healthcare Occupations Students of America, a three-year varsity swimmer and a member of the National Honors Society. But she was quick to point out that her attendance at the Girls State event was not just to pad her credentials for colleges, it was for the experience and knowledge gained.
“I strive to have the busiest schedule I have because I feel like this is the time to embrace all experiences and take on everything I can before college and before I have to support myself,” she said.
Huels said she is leaning toward studying in the medical field during college after her senior year at Milton.