Along with classmate Ali Barritt, students Annika Nielsen and Rachel Hill also visited the Vermont State House this summer as part of Girls State 2016.

Barritt Reflects on Girls State

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Thursday August 18, 2016

South Burlington High School (SBHS) student Ali Barritt recently returned from American Legion Auxiliary Green Mountain Girls State, a non-profit leadership conference focused on teaching high school girls about active engagement in their political structure, remembrance of our Veterans, and active patriotism. The soon to be senior’s articles can often be seen throughout the school year in The Other Paper as Barritt is a correspondent for the SBHS Career Development Center (CDC). We have turned the table on this budding journalist and asked her about the Girls State experience.

TOP: What are the activities at Girls State?
Barritt: Elections for various offices began our day of arrival and 20-second speeches were brainstormed on-the-spot. In my opinion, this created election speeches that lacked body and voters didn’t have much information other than how people conveyed themselves. Elected officials had varied responsibilities, the town moderator banged a gavel to maintain order and directed conversation; the town clerk took notes during town meetings; the governor elected justices and gave speeches. By the next morning, I learned the extent of the American Legion Auxiliary’s (ALA) influence on the program. A town crier woke us at 6:30 a.m. so that we could be at the flag pole by 7:10 a.m. Once there, a color guard, a group of girls who volunteered, raised the flag and while our hands were on our hearts, the pledge of allegiance would follow, then the Star-Spangled Banner. We were warned that if anyone ever sang it during the camp, we would have to stop in our tracks and join in. ALA’s leadership was also evident from our instructions to stand two-by-two in “crisp,” straight lines when we traveled, and to make up cheers to shout as we walked.

TOP: Girl State attendees generally visit their statehouse, what did you think of the experience?
Barritt: The best part of the program was the day at the State House. Elected Chair of the Healthcare Committee in theSenate, I had the pleasure of directing the discussion of whether or not to amend a bill that would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. Senator Peg Flory helped us amend it, and an improved draft was created with the aid of an attorney. Examining my committee’s bill among others brought to the Senate floor was very exciting. Enthusiasm bubbled in my stomach, signaling that I should return to the State House again, but as an actual senator.

TOP: Can you see yourself entering the political arena at some point in your career?
Barritt: I plan to major in Political Science/International Affairs in college, and would love to end up working in the United Nations. I love helping others any way I can, and as a member of the Vermont chapter of RESULTS, a nonprofit that aims to end global poverty by lobbying Congress to make certain decisions/sponsor certain bills, I’ve discovered that having a position in government will give me the most power to make change.

TOP: Who has inspired you politically and what topics draw your attention?
Barritt: The people who have particularly inspired me in this area are some of my own teachers. My U.S. history teacher from sophomore year, Krista Huling, has such a magical, exciting way of teaching about government and politics; she makes it intense and relevant. She’s encouraged my interest in the field by sending me various scholarship opportunities, such as writing an essay about an elected official who did something that was politically courageous. She’s also notified me of terrific opportunities, such as a chance to spend a week in Washington, D.C. to see how the government runs. In addition, she’s urged me to make change, advocate for what I believe in.

Others who have inspired me in this area include my CDC correspondents’ internship adviser, Nancy LaVarnway, who’s on the Vermont Commission on Women, and Deidre Donovan, who told me about her advocacy for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The topics that highly interest me, to name a few, include the war in Syria, crises in the Middle East and parts of South Asia, the lack of quality education and protection of civil rights in many parts of the world, and the issue with the current aid model. In my opinion, it’s paternalistic; we don’t partner with the countries we’re trying to help.

TOP: Who do you credit for your interest in journalism?
Barritt: At the end of eighth grade, I was drafted by my middle school guidance counselor, Caryn Olivetti, to write for The Other Paper via an internship at SBHS called CDC Correspondents. Thus, I started writing articles, unsure of how I felt doing so, and the writing style eventually grew on me, to the point that I joined my school newspaper as well. As a correspondent, I’m always aware of what’s going on in the school and the community, I get to meet a lot of people and make connections that last, and the writing style feels straightforward and fun to me.

TOP: Tell us more about the podcast club you formed.
Barritt: My interest in podcasts formed after Mrs. Huling had my U.S. History class listen to Radiolab’s episode 60 Words during our unit on the power the different branches of government have in declaring and dealing with war. I didn’t know what a podcast was until I listened to this, and I loved it. I went on to listen to nearly all of Radiolab’s episodes, and now I live in suspense, waiting for a new episode to be released. Since then, I’ve also started listening to Reply All, This American Life, Serial, StartUp, Invisibilia, Snap Judgment, and Love+Radio. Plugging into a good podcast while making art is one of my favorite pastimes.

The idea to create my own club where members would discuss current events, issues, and ideas, record the discussion, and post it as a podcast, came from my love of podcasts, but also the excitement that builds in me when I have a deep, academic conversation. My friends can verify that that’s how I kept entertained during prom.

TOP: Finally, what do you look forward to next year as a senior at SBHS?
Barritt: I’m quite excited for senior year. It will be a cool year of “lasts.” Last midterms and finals in high school, last AP tests, last pep rallies. At this point, I feel like I’m mentally a college student and I’m psyched to move on to the next huge part in my life. However, I will make the most of this coming year. I look forward to being a member of the National Honor Society, participating further in my clubs and bringing my ideas to them, starting the second year of the Podcast Club, executing a few projects I have in mind, such as getting a memorial of some sort to recognize the history of the SBHS “rebel” identifier, and to explain how we have redefined the term today. I’m also eager to visit with all of my teachers from over the years so I can get a last goodbye in. From what I’ve heard, senior year will fly by (as long as I don’t catch senioritis)