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(The Publisher’s Desk this week is written by Nicole Jenkins, daughter of Becky Schoolcraft Stalnaker and granddaughter of Agnes Settles Schoolcraft. Both were former students of mine at Calhoun High School. I was impressed by Nicole’s lifetime goals and her ability to focus on them, while a teenager. The Calhoun Chronicle is pleased to give this young lady the excitement of having a published work. --HM)

Early April of this year, I was a carefree 17-year-old girl who was offered a chance to throw away a week of her precious summer at Wheeling Jesuit University to learn how to be an educated, political citizen . . . yuck! My mother was delighted and encouraged (threatened) me to accept the offer. She gave me two options: go peacefully, or go anyway. I reluctantly chose the first option, but when I returned from my stay at Rhododendron Girls State, I came back more of a woman than I had ever been.

June 12, I rode for nearly four hours in the back of my Ford Escort from Glenville to big city Wheeling. On top of the anxiety of being thrown into a place where I knew absolutely no one (I was the only one from my school) and being away from home for a whole week (something I wasn’t used to), I was also car sick. Needless to say, I wasn’t a very happy camper, literally.

The sign that stood at the entrance of the campus read, “Rhododendron Girl’s State, Welcome to Wheeling Jesuit University,” but I could have sworn it said, “Welcome to Prison.” We weren’t allowed any visitors, and if we left before we completed the full week, we had to pay our sponsor back every dime. Oh, and unauthorized male visitors were to be escorted off campus by the state police. I thought it was going to be the worse week of my life!

I remember thinking that the dorms were so bad that I turned to Mom and said, “You can’t leave me here.” Well, she did, and I thought for sure I’d die before Wednesday. Thankfully, the girls that shared my suite (ironic, huh?) were so nice that they had to welcome me. I stayed in their room until my roommate arrived. She, too, was very easy to get along with, and within an hour I had made three new Christian friends. The idea of survival actually seemed to become possible.

After two days of classes ended, we got into public discussions, and I slowly began to realize that this program wasn’t just for promoting political activity in young women. It was also to assist teenage girls in discovering essential hidden traits within themselves that will help them grow into intelligent, charismatic women. A part of achieving that goal was separating the girls from the security of old friends and forcing them to make new friends.

I experienced that first-hand, and I became very depressed by my third day. Finally, my roommate offered to talk to me, so I opened up to her. That day, I learned three very valuable lessons. Number one: The world doesn’t revolve around me. Number two: If you don’t “fit in” then try letting yourself “fit in.” Number three: Take everything with a grain of salt.

When I allowed myself to take those lessons to heart, I began having the time of my life! I even cried when I had to leave, swearing Girl’s State was a cruel government operation that plucked you from normal life, forced you to make new friends, and then made you leave them behind. Of course, I got many a strange look when I announced that to all the girls in my suite.

For once I was glad Mom “insisted” that I participate in such an activity as Girl’s State. So many memories were made, and so many lessons were learned. I reviewed them all with her on the way home, trying to ignore that annoying I-told-you-so expression that was plastered across her face.

It took only a few days to realize I had become a totally different person. My “prison” had turned out to be a finishing school for the soul, after all. Everyone has experiences that trans-form them, and Rhododendron Girl’s State helped set my transition to womanhood into motion. I’ll forever be a Girl’s State girl.

--Nicole Jenkins

This Week's Editorials:

By Helen Morris:

Wood Festival

By Lisa Minney:

A Steady Rain

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