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Girls State elects leaders

The Inter-Mountain photos by Brooke Binns American Legion Auxiliary West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State 2018 governor Nataya Bartlett speaks to those in attendance for the special inauguration ceremony held at Davis & Elkins College Thursday.

ELKINS — Citizens of the American Legion Auxiliary West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State took part in an inauguration ceremony for their newly elected 2018 governor Thursday on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.

Nataya Bartlett, 2018 RGS governor, told her fellow citizens of Girls State and constituents to “persist despite the odds.”

“I want to leave you guys with a piece of advice — persist despite the odds,” she said. “I believe these words could be applied to West Virginia. Despite the negative connotations, despite the slurs against us, despite the rest of the world telling us we can’t, we still persist as a state. We could be passive and let them win but no, we stand tall and rise despite the odds; doing so got us all here, bright, talented and intelligent young girls that are going to lead the future.”

The past 2017 governor, Sydney West, also offered words of advice to those participating in RGS 2018.

“As some final words of wisdom that I hope will resonate with you throughout your senior year — I hope that you will go forward with confidence in yourself and your decisions,” she said. “Be selfish with your dreams because they are yours and have the courage to take risks and follow them — you were all born with West Virginia grit, all you need is a little bit of courage to change the world.

Kaylene Snyder, left, and Alexis Ravenscroft play a fanfare during the American Legion Auxiliary West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State inauguration ceremony Thursday.

“To the Girls State citizens of 2018, I hope that you have all taken advantage of this exceptional opportunity to learn from girls from all across our state. I hope that your souls have been bound together with friendships that will outlast the test of time, and I hope the presentations and people you have met have moved you in a way to empower you to be advocates and leaders,” she continued.

In addition, Brenda Miller, circuit clerk for Ohio County and the swearing-in officer for RGS, told those in attendance that new beginnings can be experiences throughout life and encouraged them to step out of their comfort zone.

“An interesting part about new beginnings is that we can experience them at many times throughout our lifetime. … New beginnings can be exciting, full of promise and an opportunity for change,” she said. “I’m glad you participated this week, got involved and stepped out of your comfort zone — you all stepped out of your comfort zone this week, but in doing that, you’ve made good, lasting friendships and embraced the magic of new beginnings this week.”

Miller also said while experiencing new things in life, there may sometimes be stress, and she encouraged the young women to find an outlet in order to deal with stress.

“Change can be chaotic and stressful. … Everyone has a different way of dealing with it. … Each of you need to find your outlet to deal with stress and change in your new beginnings. You can laugh, sing, pray, spend time with family or friends, talk out the situations of difficulty or whatever works for you,” she said. “This week you were given the opportunity and tools to make a positive change in yourself and in your future.”

Throughout this week, candidates for the RGS political offices organized and ran campaigns with hopes of being elected to their desired position. Citizens voted in a primary and general election before votes were tallied and the inauguration was held late Thursday afternoon.

In addition to governor, other young women were sworn into their elected positions including Senate President Sophia Steigleder; Speaker of the House Abigail Bowman; Commissioner of Agriculture Jillian Gentry; state Auditor Caitlin Kinsey; Treasurer Cheyenne Moore; Attorney General Giana Loretta; Secretary of State Maggie Oliverio; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Bairavi Sundaram; Justices of the Supreme Court Maria Goudy, Morgan Marquart, Sophia Polk and Cameron Pyle; and members of the House of Delegates and state Senate.

Members of the Girls State Chorus performed a number of melodies throughout the event and Alexis Ravenscroft and Kaylene Snyder offered a trumpet fanfare. The presentation of colors was performed by Bowman and Steigleder.

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