Brooke Kirila said she doesn’t really get along with people her age.
“I have never really met people that care so much about the same things that I do,” said the 16-year-old Brookfield High School senior.
That was, until she attended the American Legion Auxiliary of Ohio’s Buckeye Girls State, a week-long program that delves into the structure of local and state government, politics, political parties and campaigning.
“I’m a little government nerd,” the Hartford resident said. “I love learning about the government. When we are in government class learning about the founding fathers, I just get chills. The fact that everyone there showed that same passion was a privilege. It was a privilege to be around those girls.”
The program was held June 13-19 at the University of Mount Union in Alliance.
Brooke learned about the program from a friend in New York who had gone through that state’s program.
She was sponsored by American Legion Post 111, Canfield.
The program “elects” state, county and local officials, and has them create laws and debate issues. Brooke
ran for attorney general on the Federalist Party ticket.
“I had to get up in front of all of them,” she said. “I had 30 seconds to say why I was the right fit” for
Although she was not elected, she was appointed a council member of the city of Stoy. Everyone was
elected to, or appointed to, a job within a branch of government.
“The schedule was so rigorous.” Brooke said. “You were up at 6:15 every morning, and you probably
didn’t get to bed until 11:30. Your day was jam-packed. You had 25 minutes to eat, and you had to be out
of the dining hall. Because of COVID, they didn’t want everyone packed in the dining hall. I was really
overwhelmed at first, but it ended up being a great experience.”
Brooke attended workshops on the attorney general’s office, the legislative branch, the bar exam – she
took the 25-question test and passed – and building a political platform.
“They actually had women from each of those offices come and talk to us, which was really, really cool,”
Brooke said. “I was most interested in the attorney general because something that I’m super passionate
about is consumer’s rights. I am a huge advocate for grass-fed beef, no added hormones and antibiotics in
our dairy. My biggest goal going into that week was to talk to as many girls as possible about that.”
More than 400 girls attended.
“Those were some of the most intelligent and charismatic and tenacious girls I have ever met in my life,”
Brooke said. “It was such a privilege to meet them.”
The auxiliary said the program is designed to teach good citizenship.
“I think that being an informed citizen is a huge part of making this country work because, as a
democracy, we need to be involved in our government, and I think the more you know about it, the better
judgment you have and the better our country would run,” Brooke said.
The program taught Brooke the importance of respecting others and listening to what other people say,
and opened her eyes to the experiences of people who live in much different communities than she lives
in, she said. Brooke said she hopes other Brookfield girls will attend in the future.
“You’re gonna learn more there – and this is not a knock to any of our teachers at Brookfield – but you’re
gonna learn more there than you would in an entire year of government class,” she said. “You’re doing it. You’re not learning about what the old guys did 200 years ago. You’re learning about what you’re doing right now. You’re learning what it takes to run a government. You’re learning what it means to have a lack of communication and how to fix that. You are learning how to troubleshoot. You’re learning how to talk to people. You’re learning how to consider every single option. You’re learning so much.”