By Jenna Comes
Ellen Mallory of Charter Oak decided she wanted to get the most out of her experience at the 2019 American Legion Auxiliary Girls State in June.
“This was an opportunity for me to grow my leadership skills, public speaking, volunteering, and getting outside of my comfort zone,” Mallory said.
Mallory was invited to the Girls State by the Legion Auxiliary in December 2018. She had talked with some friends who attended Girls State in the past and researched the event online. Mallory understood that Girls State was all about government.
Iowa Girls State was held June 16-21 on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines. Three hundred girls from all across Iowa who have completed their junior year of high school attended.
As part of Girls State, the attendees got to tour the Capitol and Judicial Buildings. There were also special speakers, including Governor Kim Reynolds. The group also had chorus every day.
During the Girls State, the girls practice three types of government: city, county, and state.
At first, Mallory didn’t really set a goal to run for office, although the idea was in the back of her head.
“The overall goal for my experience was to grow my public speaking skills and get used to being around strangers and people that I didn’t know,” Mallory said.
Mallory kept thinking about a saying the counselors/advisers told them, “You only get as much from this experience as you’re willing to put into it.” So she had decided to run for an office.
As part of the election process, candidates had to give speeches. Mallory ran for mayor and gave a speech in front of 30 girls, but didn’t get elected. She didn’t want to give up, so she ran for city council. She gave another speech, but wasn’t elected. She also wasn’t appointed to a City officials position.
That night, Mallory was feeling pretty defeated, but it was a phone call to her mom that gave her some encouragement.
“My mom reminded me, ‘we are really proud of you for be selected (for Girls State) and for going. The only person you have to prove anything to is yourself,’” Mallory said.
Mallory decided to keep running for offices to get the most out of her experience.
She wanted to run for Secretary of Agriculture, but during the Secretary of State speeches, a counselor told her to use this speech as a practice so girls can put a face to the name. Mallory didn’t have anything prepared.
After hearing numerous speeches about political views and what people would do if they held the position, Mallory thought, “Why not liven up the situation.”
She gave a high-energy speech that was different from everyone else’s speeches. The speech helped her stand out in the field.
Mallory made the primary ballot for Secretary of State. The next speech she gave was in front of 150 at the primary elections.
She was surprised to find out she was the candidate for the Nationalist Party in the general election for the Secretary of State. She prepared another speech with very relatable topic to all the girls. She explained the need to show high school students how important their vote is.
“The Wednesday night before the results were announced, I couldn’t sleep,” Mallory said.
The results really didn’t matter to her as she had exceeded her goals multiple times.
“Not only did I grow my public speaking skills, but I give a speech in front of 350 people,” Mallory said. She also made friends with strangers.
On Thursday, as they election results were announced, Mallory had been voted Secretary of State.
As the Secretary of State, Mallory got to meet, Paul Pate, the current Iowa Secretary of State.
“After taking a picture with him, he handed me his business card and told me his door is always open to hear some of my ideas,” Mallory said.
Mallory said that Pate told her likes to connect with the youth.
After her Girls State experience, Mallory has a new respect and appreciation for the government and the people in it and how important the city and county governments are.
She encourages other high school girls who are interested in Girls State to talk to their American Legion Auxiliary about the opportunity to attend.
“It’s an amazing experience. It gave me a perspective at what I’m good at,” Mallory said. “I learned I like being social and connecting with different people. I’m a people person.”
In addition to being elected Secretary of State, Mallory was one of three girls in attendance at Girls State to receive an Iowa American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Scholarship.