June 15, 2004

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Contact: Missi Schoen, Sunflower Girls State, (785) 760-3477.

KU hosts 388 delegates for 2004 Sunflower Girls State June 6-11

LAWRENCE -- In a weeklong study of government made atypical by funeral observances for former President Ronald Reagan, 388 delegates participated in the 62nd annual American Legion Auxiliary Sunflower Girls State June 6 through 11 at the University of Kansas.

Rachel Beck of Leawood was chosen governor, heading a 13-member group of elected officials inaugurated in ceremonies June 10 at the Lied Center. Ron Thornburgh, Kansas secretary of state, spoke and administered the oath of office to Leah Hutchison of Emporia, who was elected chief justice of the Supreme Court. Hutchison then swore in the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state commissioner of insurance and six additional Supreme Court justices.

Heidi Blair, Wathena, 2004 Sunflower Girls State director and a 1987 delegate, introduced Thornburgh. Also participating in the ceremonies were 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. Others assisting included Sarah Edwards, Leawood, 2003 Sunflower Girls State governor; Katie Loyd, Lawrence, 2003 lieutenant governor; and Jennifer Wood, Shawnee, who represented the Peter Smith Unit No. 327 of the American Legion Auxiliary that sponsored Rachel Beck at Girls State. Flag bearers were Rachel Bacon, Hutchinson; Emily Enright, Manhattan; and Trisha Stan, Hugoton, all 2004 Sunflower Girls State delegates.

Toni Reynolds, Leavenworth, and Megan Wilson, Washington, were chosen to represent Kansas as senators at Girls Nation July 24 through 31 in Washington, D.C. Scholarship winners were Grace Schroer, Baldwin, $350 Sunflower Girls State Alumnae scholarship, and Katherine Ott, Buhler, $1,000 Samsung Corp. scholarship. As the state Samsung winner, Ott will be eligible to compete for the $20,000 Samsung national scholarship award.

The death of the former president altered activities for the high school seniors-to-be attending the session. In flag ceremonies all week at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at KU, flags were flown at half-staff. Delegates signed a book of remembrance to the former president at the institute.

Instead of traveling Friday to Topeka for a mock legislative session at the Capitol, delegates spent the day at KU because state offices were closed by executive order of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The legislative session took place at McCollum Residence Hall. The Lied Center provided projection equipment and a 20-by-25-foot movie screen so the delegates could watch the Reagan funeral.

Participants also heard talks by Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline; State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins; and Deann Tiede, human resources director of the insurance commissioner's office, all of Topeka; state Rep. Barbara Ballard, Lawrence, KU associate vice provost for student success; state Sen. Karin Brownlee, Olathe; and Bridget Patton, Kansas City, Mo., spokeswoman for the Kansas City bureau of the FBI. In conjunction with Sunflower Girls State, Mary Christine Banwart, KU assistant professor of communication studies, taught "Women in Politics," an optional one-credit-hour course coordinated by KU Continuing Education.

To be eligible to attend Sunflower Girls State, delegates must be U.S. citizens, not necessarily Kansas residents, and be sponsored by an American Legion Auxiliary unit in Kansas that pays $200 per delegate. Participants and a volunteer staff of about 50 American Legion Auxiliary members and Sunflower Girls State alumnae stayed at Ellsworth Residence Hall at KU.

Sunflower Girls State first took place at Washburn University in Topeka in 1939. The program moved in 1941 to KU, where it has been every year since except 1943 to 1946, because of World War II.

Sunflower Girls State officials elected during the 2004 session, their hometowns, high schools, if available, and offices are:

From Concordia
Leslie Wetzel, Supreme Court justice.

From Leawood
Rachel Beck, Shawnee Mission East High School, governor.

From Olathe
Kate Bolz, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Overland Park, Supreme Court justice.
Amanda Harrelson, Olathe South High School, Supreme Court justice.
Monica Hooton, Olathe Northwest High School, Supreme Court justice.

From Junction City
Alpa Banker, Junction City Senior High School, lieutenant governor.

From Ulysses
Veronica Alvarado, Ulysses High School, secretary of state.

From Emporia
Leah Hutchison, Supreme Court chief justice.

From Louisburg
Erin Gettler, attorney general.

From Hutchinson
Kaleigh Braun, Trinity Catholic High School, state treasurer.
Haley O'Neal, Hutchinson Senior High School, state commissioner of insurance.

From Manhattan
Bilgah Moka-MoLiki, Supreme Court justice.

From Salina
Cassandra Mitchell, Salina South High School, Supreme Court justice.


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