Aaryan Morrison participating in Girls Nation

Aaryan Morrison participating in Girls Nation
Aaryan Morrison participating in Girls Nation

Aaryan Morrison serves as Girls Nation Senator
see Aaryan’s column at the bottom of this page)

            Kokomo High School senior Aaryan Morrison recently spent a week in Washington D.C. serving as a “Senator” in Girls Nation, where she had the opportunity to craft mock legislation, debate the merits of theoretical bills, and cast her vote for, or against, 6 mock resolutions and 16 mock bills.

            “We reached 100 percent participation in our Girls Nation Senate, which meant that every girl had the opportunity to speak,” Aaryan explained. “Our Girls Nation Senate listened to 6 resolutions, and passed 5. We heard 16 bills, and passed 15. On paper, this made us one of the most successful Girls Nation Senates in recent history.”

            Aaryan was among 100 high school seniors around the United States selected to participate in the American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation from July 22-29 in Washington D.C. after completing the Hoosier Girls State experience in June. Two participants per state, known as “Senators,” are chosen to represent their respective ALA Girls State programs.

            During Girls Nation, a week is spent creating a mock legislature, submitting bills and resolutions, participating in Senate sessions, holding a national convention, and electing officials such as president and vice president during mock elections.

            Aaryan noted that, through this experience, she gained greater insight into how the federal government works. More importantly, though, she learned more about herself. Aaryan gained the confidence to share her political views with others, along with the basis for those beliefs.

            “I learned that when a peer at Girls Nation said she was interested in hearing your political views, she meant it,” Aaryan added. “She didn’t want to hear your views to judge you, but to understand you. I learned that politics doesn’t have to be divisive, which gives me so much hope for the future of the country.”

            At Girls Nation, each state’s Senators must submit one resolution or bill for consideration. Aaryan and her fellow Indiana Senator, Osaretin “Oti” Ogbeide from Carmel High School, proposed the Woman and Underrepresented Population STEM Scholarship Act, which suggested reallocating $1 billion in federal STEM funding to provide scholarships to women and racial minority groups wishing to pursue STEM in post-secondary education. Aaryan and Osaretin’s bill passed.

            Aaryan also was excited to cast her vote in favor of a theoretical joint resolution, which abolished the Electoral College. The resolution, brought forth by the Senators from Kentucky, was the first piece of legislation to pass during the Girls Nation Senate sessions.

            Aaryan connected with many of her peers during her week in the nation’s capital, but formed a special bond with the other Girls Nation Senators who are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at their schools. Aaryan noted that only about three other girls were a part of IB programs.

            “It is huge that Kokomo Schools offers the International Baccalaureate programs because not many schools do,” she added. “I love IB. I appreciate the challenge the program provides me, and I am a fan of the global network you create through this program.”

            Before she left for Girls Nation, Aaryan completed the first draft of her Extended Essay, one of the requirements of the IB Diploma Program. This essay is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper. Aaryan’s essay explores world religions. Her research question is “To what extent are Islamic religious practices, justified under Sharia Law, compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?”

            Aaryan also spent a portion of her summer working on her IB Creativity, Action, and Service project. Aaryan is planning an action and service project for her class. She and some of her classmates hope to travel southwest during their Spring Break to work with, or for, the Navajo Nation, whose reservation covers parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.
            Next on Aaryan’s to-do list is submit her college applications to Harvard University, Princeton University, Indiana University, University of Chicago, Clark University in Massachusetts, Macalester College in Minnesota, Georgetown University, and Minerva Schools.

            Aaryan plans to study International Relations, with the hope of securing a job as a United Nations Developmental Program Director. Aaryan’s ultimate goal is to work on grassroots development campaigns in Africa.

            Aaryan’s career aspirations were shaped, in part, by the International programs at Kokomo Schools. Aaryan and her family have hosted students from Costa Rica, England, Chile, Spain, and Norway over the past five years.

            “I refer to all of these girls as my sisters,” Aaryan said. “All five of them have been absolutely instrumental in shaping my world perspective. I owe so much to them, and I owe even more to Kokomo Schools for bringing young people from all over the world to Kokomo High School and to our IB World schools. These International programs are my favorite part about my school district.”

A week to remember: Aaryan Morrison recounts Girls Nation experience

            I squeezed the hands of senators from New York and Florida as Bernie Sanders walked onto the floor of the US Senate and spoke about the future of an amendment to the Republican healthcare bill. My week representing Kokomo High School as an American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation senator is one that I always will remember.

            The world of politics is something I have considered to be beyond me- a mess of partisan division and divisive conversation. I flew to Washington DC fearful of the climate that may greet me. However, my fear was unwarranted. One hundred of the nation's brightest young female minds engaged in mature, understanding political conversation. Over lunch, senators from Alaska calmly discussed gun control with senators from New York; senators from Iowa, California, and Florida shared thoughts regarding immigration reform. I listened intently to all sides of every issue- appreciating the intellectual nature of the environment.

            As a Girls Nation Senate, we abolished the Electoral college, advocated for a greater consideration of human rights, and extended registration for the draft to women. My Indiana co-senator, Oti Ogbeide, and I submitted a bill reallocating federal funding of STEM programs in the form of a scholarship to women and members of underrepresented racial minorities interested in pursuing higher education in a STEM field. I am proud to say that the WUP STEM Scholarship Act became a federal law. In total, the 2017 Girls Nation Senate heard sixteen bills and six resolutions, passed fifteen bills and five resolutions, and reached 100% participation: on paper, that made us the best Girls Nation senate of recent years.

            Although Girls Nation senate sessions provided a great idea of how a young woman felt about an issue, much of the real bonding took place during our off-campus excursions. In building a wreath to lay on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, speaking to a Holocaust survivor, and meeting the President of the United States in the Rose Garden, we became a group. Our nerves, excitement, sweat, and tears all mingled to forge a bond that cannot be placed into words. While I instantly recall saying “Hi” to Marco Rubio and riding the “congressional tram” with John McCain, my friend from South Dakota will remember crying tears of joy as she ran up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, basking in the glory of our nation's iconography. The week meant something a little different for each of us, but all of us will remember that our Girls Nation week was special.

             I am forever indebted to the American Legion Auxiliary (Kokomo Post 6) for investing its time and treasure into my experience; I hope to pay it forward in the years to come. I am indebted to Kokomo High School for giving me the tools to aim high and pursue lofty goals without hesitation. I am indebted to my parents, Bronwen and Kismet Morrison, for instilling the values of hard work and open-mindedness within their daughter. Girls Nation taught me about myself, my country, and our future together: it really was “a week to change a lifetime.”

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