June 1, 2004

Contact: Christine Lester, KU Continuing Education, (785) 864-7860.

Almost 420 high school seniors expected for Sunflower Girls State at KU

UPDATE: Sunflower Girls State's scheduled Friday trip to the Capitol in Topeka for its mock legislative session has been canceled due to the national day of mourning in observance of the funeral of former President Ronald Reagan and closing of state offices by executive order of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The mock legislative session will be conducted Friday at McCollum Residence Hall at KU, and the delegates will watch from the Lied Center the live televised broadcast of the Reagan funeral in Washington, D.C. Other activities will proceed as scheduled, including the inauguration of Girls State election winners at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lied Center.

LAWRENCE -- About 420 high school seniors-to-be from throughout Kansas are expected to attend the 62nd annual American Legion Auxiliary Kansas Sunflower Girls State, June 6 through 11 at the University of Kansas, according to the event coordinators.

Delegates, sponsored by their local American Legion auxiliary units, will participate in a weeklong study of government at all levels that concludes with an awards ceremony at the Lied Center at KU. Most sessions will be at the Lied Center and the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at KU, and they will include a trip to the state Capitol in Topeka for meetings with Kansas state officials.

Participants expect to hear talks by Phill Kline, Kansas attorney general; Ron Thornburgh, secretary of state; and Lynn Jenkins, state treasurer; state Rep. Barbara Ballard, KU associate vice provost for student success, Lawrence; and state Sen. Karin Brownlee, Olathe. Ruth Dirreen, Hutchinson, president of the Kansas Department of the American Legion Auxiliary, and Leonard Hill, Ulysses, commander of the Kansas Department of the American Legion, also will address the group. Delegates will have opportunities to meet with other state, county and city officials, including their home-district senators and representatives.

In conjunction with Sunflower Girls State, Mary Christine Banwart, KU assistant professor of communication studies, will teach "Women in Politics," a one-hour credit course coordinated by KU Continuing Education. Through readings and discussion, delegates will explore what prompts women to run for office; their leadership styles, strategies and characteristics; campaign advertising and debate topics; a historical overview of women in office; issues they champion; and barriers they may face as leaders in the public realm.

During the week, delegates will campaign and hold general elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer, commissioner of insurance and seven supreme court justice positions. They will hold an inaugural ceremony June 10.

Heidi Blair, Wathena, is the 2004 director of Sunflower Girls State. A volunteer staff of about 50 American Legion Auxiliary members and Sunflower Girls State alumnae assists during the week. Participants and volunteer staff will stay in Ellsworth Residence Hall at KU and will take meals at Ekdahl Dining Commons, known on campus as "Mrs. E's," which offers a three-story panoramic hillside view overlooking Mount Oread, on which KU is located.

Sarah Edwards, Leawood, 2003 Sunflower Girls State governor, and Katie Loyd, Lawrence, 2003 Sunflower Girls State lieutenant governor, will share duties presiding at the 2004 sessions. Edwards plans to arrive June 9 after spending the first part of the week playing baritone with her Blue Valley North High School band at D-Day concerts in Paris and Normandy in France and in London to commemorate the June 6, 1944, Allied invasion in Europe during World War II. She is the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Edwards and is a graduate of Blue Valley North High School who plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis.

Loyd, who plans to enter KU this fall, is the daughter of Herb and Peggy Loyd and is a graduate of Lawrence High School.

Sunflower Girls State has been offered through the American Legion Auxiliary since its inception in 1939. No sessions took place from 1943 to 1946 because of World War II.

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