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Coal Ridge High School senior attends Colorado Girls State

Theresa Hamilton
Garfield Re-2
Coal Ridge High School senior Natalie Dougherty learned some valuable lessons this summer at Colorado Girl’s State at the University of Northern Colorado.
Courtesy of Garfield Re-2 |

Coal Ridge High School senior Natalie Dougherty admits that she used to see some issues as black and white.

After attending Colorado Girl’s State at the University of Northern Colorado with hundreds of other young women from around Colorado this summer, her views on some things have softened.

“Everyone has some kind of story,” she said. “(Girl’s State) taught me that everyone has something that they are not vocal or very upfront about, and you really can’t pass any judgment on anyone.”

The Girls State program began in 1937 by the American Legion Auxiliary. High school girls, who have completed their junior-year, spend an intensive week of study, working together as self-governing citizens at Auxiliary-sponsored Girls State programs in every state (with the exception of Hawaii).

Dougherty was asked to apply for the program by her Coal Ridge High School counselor Tabatha Harrington. After completing an essay and the application, she received a letter inviting her to Colorado Girls State last June.

As part of Girls State, students learned how the Legislature works, how bills become laws and more about the American Legion Auxiliary. The young ladies were divided into “cities” that had to work together and elect a mayor, a councilwoman and a clerk and recorder — a position that Dougherty sought and won.

Beyond all of the knowledge she gained about our government, it was the people that made the biggest impression.

“The people I met in our girls’ city by far made the biggest impact,” said Dougherty. “By the end of the week, we were inseparable and I still talk to them every day. They were able to mold me and change the way I think about some things. It’s eye opening to see all of the different perspectives from all of these individuals that come together for a common purpose.”

Dougherty, though not seeking a future in government, has been successful in her quest for elected office. She was recently elected student body president at Coal Ridge and is highly involved in student council. She is taking several advanced placement classes, is a two-sport athlete in cross-country and basketball, and holds down a job with Rapid Image Photography in Glenwood Springs.

She hopes to attend Costal Carolina University to study sociology and criminology.

“The experience at Girls State, and learning how the justice system works, and how bills, and amendments are made and impact the criminal justice system will really help me in the future,” she added. “It was an amazing experience.”

Theresa Hamilton is the director of communications for Garfield School District Re-2. Email her at thamilton@garfieldre2.net or call at 970-665-7621.


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