An East Newton High School senior-to-be feels she is better prepared for higher education and for life after attending Girls State this summer at the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg.

Laney Hayward was sponsored to attend the annual Girls State by the Neosho American Legion Auxiliary, along with fellow East Newton students Maggie Laughlin and Fabi Sanchez. Hayward said the auxiliary sought area academic scholars and then made their selections of whom they would sponsor through an interview process.

She said about 800 girls from around the state who had just completed their junior year in high school attended the June 22-28 academic sessions to learn about government.

Hayward explained, “There were seven counties, and each county was split up into three cities; and you built your own government that way. Officials were selected at the city level, at the county level and the state level.”

She said students took part in several occupations, from newspaper to business to government. Hayward said students took part in classes for two hours each day, including journalism, law, executive school, law enforcement, legislative and business.

“At the end of it you took a test and if you passed you were able to get a college credit through UCM,” she said.

Hayward said a long list of guest speakers helped educate the students, including both U.S. Senators from Missouri, a writer who covered the war, and even the lady who founded Build-a-Bear.

Learning about government and how it works is the goal of Girls State, and Hayward said the week helps a girl gain a lot of confidence through the campaign of running for offices.

“I understand a lot more about government.” Hayward continued, “I did not know about all the positions held in the government, and I have definitely made some life-long friends. I respect the government a lot more because I didn’t realize how much went into it.”

Hayward said the experience of Girls State has prepared her for college and beyond.
“Anything you go toward, whatever major, you can always put the government with it,” she said. “I’m hopefully going to go into zoology type stuff and there’s laws and stuff that go with that.”

She said Girls State was an eye-opening experience.

“Especially being around that many kids academically successful like yourself. Everyone there was a straight-A student,” Hayward concluded.

Hayward thanks Norma Stewart and the Neosho American Legion for their sponsorship to provide her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.