Girls State at USD concludes with elections, awards presentation

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The 68th annual South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State concluded last week at the University of South Dakota with the traditional election of officers and presentation of awards.

Under the direction of Cheryl Hovorka, Girls State Director, 2014 Girls State featured 370 girls who will enter their senior year of high school this fall. Participants were selected from across the state based on scholastic achievement, leadership skills and interest in government.

Elizabeth Spier of Sioux Falls was elected Girls State Governor and Veronica Thomas of Rapid City was elected Lt. Governor. Additional elections included Lauren Buisker of Volga, Attorney General; Kathryn Kunkel of Sioux Falls, Secretary of State; Katie Winckler of Scotland, State Auditor; Kennedy Noem of Castlewood, State Treasurer; Julia Stys of Sioux Falls, Commissioner of School and Public Lands. Elected to the Public Utilities Commission were Makenzie Falcon of Aberdeen, Callie Pospishil of Yankton, and Grace Watkins of Sioux Falls.

In non-political elections, Girls State delegates elected Tristan Roy of Tabor, Kaitlin O’Neill of Aberdeen, Samantha Nash of Sturgis, Israel Haile of Sioux Falls, Rita Stange of Dell Rapids, and Haylee Worm of Yankton as six justices to serve on the Supreme Court. Kjerstin Williams of Brandon was elected as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Haley Hinker of Mitchell was chosen as the Speaker of the House of Representatives while Sydney Gelling of Aberdeen was selected as the Nationalist Party Chair and Esther Swift of Burke as the Nationalist Party Keynote Speaker. The Federalist Party elected Rachel Evangelisto of Box Elder as keynote speaker and the Federalist Party elected Courtney Anderson of Brookings as party chair. Calla Harper of Irene was recipient of the outstanding journalist award and Madisyn Waage of Aberdeen received the highest exam score. Emily Meier of Aberdeen captured outstanding speaker honors and Sara Waldner of Crooks was selected as the Outstanding Girls State Citizen. Elle Fettig of Rapid City was selected Outstanding Speaker of the Senate and Anna Mahowald of Sioux Falls was selected Outstanding Speaker of the House.

Awards were also presented to Chandler Urban of Twin Brooks, Best Circuit Court Judge; Emily Dresszen of Madison, Best Prosecuting Attorney; Chesney Arend of Emery, Best Defense Attorney; Olivia Torbert of Sioux Falls, Best Appellate Attorney; Rachel Schartz of Humboldt, Best Appellee Attorney; Sarah Kelly of Rapid City, Outstanding Forensic Investigator; Jadah Thaemert of Sioux Falls, President of Citizens Forum; and Abby Drew of Sisseton received the Vice President Citizens Forum award.

Makenzie Falcon of Aberdeen and Meghan Schenk of Jefferson were chosen as delegates to represent South Dakota at The American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. (Annie Deutscher of Sioux Falls and Esther Swift of Burke are alternates) while Mykayla Palmer of Brandon was selected as the 2014 recipient of a $1,100 Samsung American Legion Scholarship. Alexandra Mathis of Spearfish was awarded the Bonnie Slade Memorial Scholarship and Tatum Dean of Mitchell received the Travis Memorial Scholarship.

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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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