On Saturday, 100 girls arrived at the National 4-H Conference Center. We were told that we were the best of the best, and that made me nervous. I didn’t believe that I was particularly special, and I knew that every girl present had some sort of leadership or personal quality that I did not possess. I was worried that I would be eaten alive. Thankfully, I was wrong.
This week I have met kind young women all dedicated to changing the world. Not only were they all dedicated to change, but they were also dedicated to compromise and unity. Within our senate sessions, senators were able to put aside their differences to pass comprehensive legislation. Though we spent a large time in Senate, it was not the only thing we did. From the humbling experience of visiting Arlington National Cemetery — where we learned the true cost of freedom — to the work experience of talking to congressional staffers, this week has truly been unforgettable.
Though many of us were disappointed in our inability to visit the White House, we were all so grateful for the ALA Girls Nation staff’s efforts and our trip to the Thomas Jefferson, FDR, and the MLK Jr. Memorials instead. Traveling around with these girls all week has caused me to grow as a woman and it has truly changed my life. I really didn’t realize that I belonged until talent night when I sang “Rolling in the Deep” and my fellow senators, my friends, were singing and dancing along. This feeling of belonging followed me to the banquet and the subsequent dance party as I fought back tears thinking about saying goodbye to these girls who seem to understand who I am and who I want to be.
ALA Girls Nation has helped me realize that wanting to change the world isn’t a daunting dream. It is tangible, and I hope all my fellow senators feel the same.
Olivia Antigua, Maryland