Sunday, March 19 was an important day for the participants of Ms President US, the Ridgefield-based nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to motivating and preparing area girls to aim for the highest civic leadership positions while teaching the importance of female involvement in public service.
Participants took to the stages at Ridgefield Playhouse for the annual election of Ms President US of Wilton and eight other Connecticut towns. The election was the culmination of the work done by program directors, mentors, and candidates alike throughout the year.
For months, the elementary and middle school age participants learned about their local, state, and federal government; brainstormed topics; wrote speeches; and organized their campaign teams. The monthly program sessions, ranging from Q&As with federal leaders to debate workshops, all led up to this important day.
This highly-anticipated event was attended by a number of notable people. Wilton was represented by Selectwoman Kim Healy. Also in attendance at the Ridgefield Playhouse election were Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, Redding First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton, and Ridgefield Registrar of Voters Wayne Floegel.
The Playhouse stage election was run by Patricia Russo, Executive Director of The Campaign School at Yale, whose infectious energy and campaign prep knowledge were invaluable in putting the candidates at ease and keeping the audience engaged.
The event began with a quick lesson on ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, as opposed to simply voting for their top pick. This voting method eliminates the possibility of the winning candidate receiving a minority of the votes, and leads to more camaraderie among candidates.
Next came the speeches. Each candidate had three minutes to describe her platform and detail her solution. Platforms ranged from composting in schools to language diversity to cybersecurity awareness. Every candidate spoke with passion and dedication. It was clear how hard the girls had worked and how proud they were to be standing on stage, sharing their ideas with the town, making their voices heard.
Interspersed between the speeches were mentor awards. Mentors are integral to the fabric of Ms President US; they serve as role models to the participants, help run sessions, revise speeches, and extend a helping hand to anyone who needs it. This year, the Spirit of Ms President US Awards went to Wilton High School student Avni Gupta of Wilton and Maya Chauhan of Ridgefield. Chauhan and Gupta are both presidents of the junior boards of their respective chapters.
Finally, it came time for the voting and announcement of the winners.
Emily Smith was elected Ms President US of Wilton. She talked about the importance of self-care, and proposed the implementation of a festival to raise awareness for and boost the mental health of the youth of Wilton.
“We believe that giving kids ideas for self-care and access to activities that generate endorphins will help them not only cope and thrive when they feel off,” says Smith, “but will also help them take care of themselves.”
“There aren’t words strong enough to emphasize just how intelligent and well-spoken the participants of Ms President US are,” Amanda Cordano, Ms president US executive director, said. “The skills they learned — collaboration, communication, professionalism — will serve them far beyond simply the program. They are our future leaders. If their speeches were anything to go by, our future is in good hands.”
One of the guiding philosophies of Ms President US is that having strong female role models is of the utmost importance for young girls. The program gives young girls the opportunity to speak their minds and reach their full potential. Registration for the 2023-24 cohort is open and 4th-8th grade girls can register online.