“If we want [our daughters] to grow up saying ‘I want to be Secretary of State,’ we want them to know what secretary of state is as soon as possible.”
This is the belief of Kimberly Mitchem-Rasmussen, the founder of Girls in Politics. Girls in Politics is an initiative that introduces girls aged 8 to 17 to the work of the United States Congress, parliamentary governments, and the work of the United Nations. In 2011, Mitchem-Rasmussen started Camp Congress through Girls in Politics, a camp that teaches girls leadership skills and how to run for office.
Camp Congress is a week-long program that takes place in Washington D.C. Girls can participate in a range of activities, including trips to Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court. A two-day intensive campaign is also included in the curriculum, where girls launch their own campaign, create a donor database, develop a ground game and are taught about different types of elected positions.
Campers also learn how to introduce a bill, debate the merits of that bill, work with the executive branch of the government, and finally vote on the proposed bill. Mitchem-Rasmussen said that she launched Camp Congress as a way to make aspects of the government less intimidating to girls.
“We don’t want Congress to be this distant, lofty thing that they can’t aspire to. We want them to see that all our institutions are accessible to them. They do have a place; they do have opportunity,” said Mitchem-Rasmussen.
Although the week-long camp is only offered in D.C., there are one-day intensive events in several U.S. cities, as well as in Paris, London, and Canada. 60 percent of Camp Congress’s participation is made up of local girls while the other 40 percent travel from all over the country!
Elizabeth Ricci is a mother from Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, where she served as President of the Democratic Women’s Club of Leon County. When she went to enroll her two daughters in camp, she wanted them to be involved in a program that offered more than just arts and crafts. When she found Camp Congress, she knew it was the right choice.
“I saw how few women leaders we have,” said Ricci. “I wanted to make sure my daughters knew that they could be leaders, in politics or industry.”
Ricci’s older daughter used her Camp Congress experience to become the homeroom representative of her sixth-grade class. Many of Mitchem-Rasmussen’s graduates have used their experience to accomplish similar feats as they await the age when they can run for office.
Camp Congress is not the only program offered by Girls in Politics. Other programs include Camp United Nations, Camp Parliament, and Mother/Daughter Camp Congress. Mitchem-Rasmussen also runs the Political Institute for Women, which trains women to run for office. The adult and child programs are essentially the same because Mitchem-Rasmussen believes the girls should not receive a “watered-down” education on politics.
Hopefully, with programs like Camp Congress, more girls will be inspired to become tomorrow’s leaders!
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