KJZZ is a service of Rio Salado College,
and Maricopa Community Colleges

Copyright © 2024 KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

SOAPBOX: Michelle Davidson's week at summer camp ignited her passion for politics

On KJZZ's  SOAPBOX, The Show turns over the the mic to listeners. In our latest series, listeners tell their own true stories on the theme of Summer Camp. 

Sometimes, camp is just camp. Other times, it sets your path in life and launches your entire career. Here’s Phoenix writer Michelle Davidson.

Michelle Davidson
Michelle Davidson
Michelle Davidson

When I was selected by my high school to attend Arizona Girls State the summer of my junior year, I didn’t want to go.

Sure, I was a straight-A student who served on the student council and was slated to be the editor of the school newspaper the next year, but I was also an angsty 17-year-old with an attitude problem and a habit of ditching class. Spending a week with 200 other girls in an old, poorly air-conditioned dorm learning about government sounded positively awful. And worst yet — it was in Tucson.

But I knew the program, run by the American Legion Auxiliary, offered scholarships, and I was hellbent on attending college, so I decided to go. I drove myself and the two other girls from my school down to Tucson in my boat-like Chevy Caprice classic — arriving that hot June morning with no idea what to expect.

Girls State is a week-long program that brings young women from each state together to create their own mock government and learn about democracy and public service. Arizona Girls State started in 1948 and boasts our current governor, attorney general and state treasurer as alumni.

There is no time to waste in the program. Right after we arrived, we were sorted into our mythical cities, counties and political parties. There are lots of meetings and speeches. But before I knew it, I was singing the Girls State song and laughing with new friends. I had no idea that I would love every minute of working on our city’s budget or writing legislation or helping a new friend plan her campaign.

Something happens at Girls State. Perhaps it is meeting so many smart, focused, talented young women from all over Arizona. Maybe it is hearing from elected officials and government professionals, many of them women, about how they have impacted their community in positive ways through public service. It could be the shared goal of creating a state — albeit a pretend one — that upholds the values and ideals of 200 young women. It could be the absence of boys.

Whatever it is — it is magical. Looking back, I believe that Girls State may have been one of the first times I was ever truly myself. As a teenager who watched the news and read the New York Times, I didn’t always fit in with the crowd. But at Girls State I was surrounded by my peers for the first time. While working on campaign posters and writing speeches I found a part of myself and made lifelong friends. The legislation and party platforms may have been made up, but the intentions and determination behind them were not.

Girls State ignited my own passion for politics — I have worked on dozens of campaigns, for an attorney general, governor and a U.S. senator. I have also continued to volunteer for the Girls’ State program.

Earlier this month I made that same drive to Tucson again, thirty years later, to drop off my daughter for her own week at Girls State. Thankfully, she had a much better attitude about it going in than I did and while she may not follow me into a career in politics, I know the magic of Girls State will stay with her forever.

Related Content