Elections, award presentations highlight Girls State at USD

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The 65th annual session of Girls State at The University of South Dakota concluded with the election of officers and presentation of awards.

Under the direction of Cheryl Hovorka, the South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary Girls State featured 430 girls entering their senior year of high school. Each participant was selected from across the state based on scholastic achievement, leadership skills and interest in government.

At the closing assembly in Slagle Auditorium on Friday, June 4, Beth Mayrose of Salem was elected Girls State Governor and Sarah Wedel of Yale was elected Lt. Governor. Additional elections included: Lynn Yen, of Brookings, Attorney General; Keriann Beadnell of Watertown, Secretary of State; Megan Minatra of Waverly, State Auditor; Jordyn Jones of Harrold, State Treasurer; Kasey Klatt of Henry, Commissioner of School and Public Lands. Elected as members of the Public Utilities Commission were Haley Jerman of Canistota, Abigail Trieb of Gary and Katie Martinez of Custer.

In non-political elections, Girls State delegates elected Natasha Tharp of Watertown, Kristina Zalud of Vermillion, Haley Brunke of Scotland, Nicole Ellis of Watertown, Samanatha Nielson of Watertown, Rachel Ruffinott of Yankton as six justices to serve on the Supreme Court. Michelle Jaeger of Rapid City was elected as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Madison Cuttler of Claremont was chosen as the Speaker of the House of Representatives while Michaela Oleson of Groton was selected as the Nationalist Party Chair and Kristen Titze of Watertown as the Nationalist Party Keynote Speaker. The Federalist Party elected Emily Schoenbeck of Watertown as keynote speaker and the National Party elected Hannah Brenden of Aberdeen as keynote speaker. Jean Van Driel of Mitchell was recipient of the Outstanding Journalist award and Jackie Wang of Sioux Falls received the Highest Exam Score. Virginia Larsen of Sioux Falls captured Outstanding Speaker honors and Lynn Yen of Brookings was selected as the Outstanding Girls State Citizen.

Awards were also presented to Maggie Loundenslager of Sioux Falls, Best Circuit Court Judge; Ashley Zimmerman of Pierre, Best Prosecuting Attorney; Taylor Anshutz of Gregory, Best Defense Attorney; Nicole Westerman of Yankton, Best Appellate Attorney; Sydney Schmitz of Scotland, Best Appellee Attorney; Ellie Glover of Vermillion, Outstanding Forensic Investigator; Aimee Owen of Spearfish, President of Citizens Forum; and Daryn Skjefte of Mina received the Vice President Citizens Forum award.

Callie Sieh of Sioux Falls and Jacqueline Juffer of Wagner were chosen as delegates to represent South Dakota at The American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. (Jingyi Sun of Vermillion and Elizabeth Bogue of Faith are alternates) Kristina Zalud of Vermillion was selected as the 2011 recipient of a $1,000 Samsung American Legion Scholarship while Hannah Zylstra of Canton was awarded the Bonnie Slade Memorial Scholarship and Leah Alsaker of Rosholt received the Travis Memorial Scholarship.

Notable speakers during the weeklong event included United States Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.), Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Governors Chief of Staff  Dustin Johnson, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, State Sen. Jean Hunhoff, Representative Bernie Hunhoff, Representative Nick Moser and Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

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Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 206 undergraduate and 71 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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