Lawrence teen Samantha Galyardt spent part of Sunday building the framework of a new city. "Right now, we're deciding what kind of government we want our cities to have," said Galyardt, a Lawrence High student.
Galyardt was among more than 300 young women from across the state who convened at Kansas University for the 66th annual American Legion Auxiliary Kansas Sunflower Girls State, a weeklong program focused on educating about the workings of government and honing students' leadership skills.
Throughout the week, the students will campaign for various offices and hold elections for such posts as governor and lieutenant governor. They will hear from pertinent speakers including Judge G. Joseph Pierron of the Kansas Court of Appeals and Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh.
On Sunday, the students gathered in what Bonnie Boyer, director of publications and acting spokeswoman for the event, called "sheer pandemonium."
"They really don't know what to expect," Boyer said.
The opening assembly was Sunday evening at the Lied Center.
Lawrence High School student Emily Teefey said she hopes the program will teach her more about elections and the workings of government.
"I think it's going to be a lot of hard work and hopefully learning a lot about government positions and what they do," she said.
Aimee Niedenthal, a Lawrence High student, said she was enjoying meeting people from across the state and learning.
"It's really about getting a good understanding of how you can make a difference and you can affect the world," she said. "I think it's really good to educate young people these days, especially about government and leadership, so they can really be involved later in life."