Girls State participants elect governor, lt. governor

June 21, 2012

For Nilofer Rajpurkar of Greenwood, running for governor at the 71st Hoosier Girls State seemed like an obvious decision.

"I'm just a naturally very ambitious person," she said. "I'm so honored that a group of 600 of the state's top girls believe I deserve this honor."

In the explosion of applause after the announcement, running mate Miryea Cisneros of Griffith did not comprehend that the girls had won the election until someone congratulated her inside.

"I was just so overwhelmed and excited to be out there," she said, smiling. "It's really an honor."

Nearly 600 high school girls from across Indiana participated in the 71st Hoosier Girls State, which took place on Indiana State University's campus for the 39th year. During the week of June 17-23, the delegates learned about political and governmental structure through the creation of a fictitious 51st state, where members of the Nationalist and Federalist political parties ran for office.

Rajpurkar, daughter of Hanif and Fairosa Rajpurkar and a senior at Center Grove High School, is no stranger to leadership positions. She attended the Lugar Symposium for Tomorrow's Leaders last winter and will serve as Student Council president beginning this fall.

Born in England with an Indian heritage, Rajpurkar appreciates the positions women hold in American government.

"Being able to grow up in a country like America where women play such a huge role in government, it's really inspiring to know that other people are out there that don't see it as a men versus women thing, but truly see women as great people who have the skills and the ambition and the drive to take the country where it needs to go," she said.

Growing up, Cisneros, daughter of Jose and Maria Cisneros and a senior at Griffith High School, had the dream of being the first Latino president of the United States.

"As the years go on, your interests change," she said. "But still, you never know."

Cisneros intended on running for office at the beginning of the week - but for a "smaller" position. Though previous attendees warned her of the stress involved with running for a state office, she took her chances.

"I never really campaigned," she said. "I just made friends."

Both girls plan on pursing either politics or science while in college.

Also elected to positions were:

-Secretary of State Abigail Bentson, daughter of Jackie Bentson of Greenwood, a student at Center Grove High School.

-Auditor Sandy Lam, daughter of Shu Lin of Franklin, a student at Franklin Community High School.-Treasurer Katie Hollenkamp, daughter of Nick and Kim Hollenkamp of Columbus, a student at Columbus East High School.

-Attorney General Bridget Pruzin, daughter of Jerome and Margaret Pruzin of Munster, a student at Munster High School.

-Superintendent of Public Instruction Gabriel Hinding, daughter of Michael Hinding and Mary Grezlik of Valparaiso, a student at Valparaiso High School.

The American Legion Auxiliary of Indiana sponsors Hoosier Girls State to educate a select group of young women on the duties, rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Girls-State-Announcement/i-HTTQFjk/0/L/042112GIRLSSTATEGOVANNOUNCE-L.jpg

Lt. Gov. Miryea Cisneros (left) and Gov. Nilofer Rajpurkar (right) react to hearing the election results announced at Hoosier Girls State. ISU Photo/Tony Campbell

Contact: Vickie Koutz, director, Hoosier Girls State at 812-237-7890

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3773