“We are the future builders,
Builders in a band
And we come from Girls State,
The best state in the land.
We are up and coming,
Progressive, kind and strong
And to our own Girls State,
We proudly sing our song.”

Have you ever been in a room with thousands of passionate, intelligent and hard-working young women? If you haven’t, you are missing out.

That is exactly what Girls State is, some of the best of the best junior girls around the state coming together for one week to do something incredible. Let’s think back to the constitutional convention that took four months to even draft the plan for the government, much less put it into action. In one week, girls create an entire government that functions like an actual government. And it is not some little fluffy make believe game. It is so much more than all the songs, chants, dances, pretty dresses and fun you see on social media. It is serious business, with real issues and solutions to problems.

And it’s contagious. You can feel the energy in the room of passionate teenage girls who want to spread the love of America and make their country a better place. It’s infectious, the determination of girls who are given the opportunity to do something great and make their voice heard. Everyone feeds off each other, and it is not something that anyone would want to miss out on. That led me to really dive deep, listen and learn, and what I got out of it was so monumental to my life.

I learned more about politics, real-world issues, the government, God and myself that week than I ever have before. It showed me, and I’m sure every young girl there, the value of being a woman. Women have done and will do some pretty great things in this world, and we don’t always get enough credit.

The most important gift it gave me was confidence.

It helped me find my voice, literally and figuratively, and gave me the confidence to use it. It taught me that I matter in this world, and it gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams to change the world. It also showed me how to change the world. By being kind, loving others, and believing in myself and my friends, I could make an impact. It allowed me to be whatever I wanted to be for a week, to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. Not many times in my life have I been given the opportunity to stand in front of an auditorium full of girls and give a speech about my ideas and how I could make a difference. And then, to have those girls believe in me and affirm that I was doing something right, was so great. It changed me, and it birthed in me a love for speaking and sharing my ideas and thoughts with the world. It was life changing. It is one reason why you are even able to read this from me right now.

I also tried out for the Girls State Chorus and it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I have been afraid to put my voice out there often in life, especially singing by myself to people I don’t know. I didn’t always believe I was very good at it, but then my leader encouraged me to just try. The faces of the girls I auditioned to said it all. I made the chorus, and I even tried out for a solo, something I had not done in a long time.

Girls State also taught me about the Lord. He cares for each of us and our talents and passions. It showed me how you can mix your faith and your country, even when so many people think the two should be separate. You can use what you believe in, what God has taught you and your convictions to make decisions that benefit everyone. It also showed me who the true King of our land is, Jesus.

But despite all the great programming and lessons I learned, I got to meet some pretty amazing girls in the process. Many of those girls I go to college with, and others I still talk to pretty regularly. There is something inside each of us, a spark of love you could say, for God and for country, and it connects us. We share a lot of the same ideas and perspectives about life. We also share that one magical week.

I can’t describe to you what it is like to dance in an auditorium filled with girls to “Run the World” by Beyoncé after your party wins the gubernatorial election. Or, what it is like to kill your “fastsong” on stage. Or even what it is like to see the stunned face of your real state Governor because teenage girls are asking him some really difficult questions he doesn’t even have answers to. I can’t explain to you what it is like to find your voice and confidence, and use it. I can’t explain what it is like to have a city of new friends. I can’t tell you what you are going to get out of that week. It is something you will have to experience for yourself. If you ever get the chance, go!