Three receive recognition for years of service at Girls State
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Three receive recognition for years of service at Girls State

By Haleigh Bebbington

While young women from all over the state felt excitement and nervous during the South Dakota ALA Girls State session this week, a few staffers had the drills down pat.

Auxiliary member Teresa Huntimer and senior counselor Laura Alexander both received their five-year pins this year, and America Legion Auxiliary member Shirley Baker earned her 15-year pin for service at Girls State. Each received their pins at the general assembly in Aalfs Auditorium Slagle Hall Friday morning.

All three women said they have great enthusiasm for the Girls State program, which makes them want to come back
each year.

“Girls State is probably one of my favorite weeks out of the whole entire year,” Alexander said. “I continue to have positive relationships with the delegates I counsel as well as the counselors that come back.”

Huntimer said she chooses to come back each year to learn from the delegates as much as they learn from her.

“Each year it’s going to be a little bit different. You’ll learn. I come here for a learning experience just like you guys do,” she said. “I learn something new every year.”

Laura Stringer, department secretary for the South Dakota Auxiliary, said she appreciates Huntimer’s work ethic.

“Teresa is willing to do whatever work needs done,”
she said.

Baker said she simply enjoys being at Girls State and loves being involved in the program.

“I enjoy being here, just working with the junior and senior counselors and the staff and working with the girls and being involved,” she said.

Both Huntimer and Alexander said they love to watch delegates grow and change throughout the week.

“What I like to see is when (delegates) first come here, (they’re) very shy. I describe you as caterpillars, but by the end of the week you’re beautiful butterflies. You spread your wings and you fly,”
Huntimer said.

Alexander said she also enjoys watching delegates bond with each other.

“I think (my favorite part) is just getting to see a group of like 25 to 30 girls come together. They start at the beginning of the week not really knowing anything about each other, and by the end of the week we get so close.”

Baker said she loves being in the Auxiliary and coming to Girls State because she loves supporting veterans. She said she will continue to come to Girls State as long as she can to get more young women to support veterans.

“I want to be involved in the American Legion Auxiliary working for our veterans. What better way can it be than coming to Girls State and teaching these girls to be involved in government and for veterans,” Baker said.

Baker’s enthusiasm for Girls State did not go unnoticed. Assistant Director of Girls State, Tiffany Newman, said she admires
Baker’s enthusiasm.

“I hope that when I’m that age I can be that energetic and have half the energy she has and the optimism and outlook on life,” Newman said.

Alexander said another reason she loves being involved in Girls State is because it has provided her with useful skills and new outlooks on life.

Alexander said she is not sure how graduating from South Dakota State University will affect her ability to come back as a senior counselor each year, but she knows she wants to continue counseling as long as she can.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without it,” she said. “It’s something that I’ll carry probably for the rest of my life.”

One St. Louis delegate, Tia Schmidt, spent the week under the counsel of Alexander. Schmidt said she admires Alexander’s compassion.

“She’s like a mom. We all call her mom because that’s how she acts,” Schmidt said. “She has the biggest heart.

All three women who received pins said they have a great appreciation for Girls State and are glad to be a part of it.

Baker said she enjoys seeing how the delegates’ attitudes have developed over the years. She said both their attitudes toward government and confidence have improved over
the years.

Huntimer, who besides nieces and nephews said she doesn’t have a lot of family, has found family at Girls State.

“These kids are mine,”
she said.