The annual event, now in its 63rd year, is designed to teach female high school juniors about civic participation. The South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary selected 450 girls from across the state based on scholastic achievement, leadership skills and interest in government.

Throughout the weeklong program, participants are taught every aspect of American government from the state and local level to the federal and executive branches. Students will also have an opportunity to learn firsthand from South Dakota political figures, including Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, D-S.D., who is scheduled to speak at the opening session on Monday, June 1. Other speakers include Public Utilities Commissioner Dustin Johnson, Gov. Michael Rounds, who will host a question and answer session on Friday, June 5 at 9 a.m. in the Muenster University Center, and U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., schedule permitting, will also address the Girls State delegation.

In addition, Karen Gerdes, chief clerk of the South Dakota House of Representatives, and Trudy Evenstad, secretary of the South Dakota Senate, will be in attendance to consult with students. Area attorneys and judges will be present to assist with judicial questions and the Clay County Sheriff’s Department will conduct a law enforcement program, which includes a forensics investigation team made up of 14 Girls State participants. While on campus, students will be divided into cities and counties where they will have an opportunity to run for a mythical political office ranging from governor to local law enforcement positions.

Daily activities include general assembly at the Muenster University Center; law and court procedure classes presented by Chris Hutton, a professor with the USD School of Law; talent auditions; invited keynote speakers; campus tours; and various presentations and meetings. This is the eighth consecutive year that USD and the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership are hosts to the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State program.

For more information about Girls State, including a brief history and a list of activities and events, please visit or contact Director Cheryl Hovorka at (605) 677-5702 or e-mail

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