Ohio County Circuit Court Clerk Brenda Miller told young women at Rhododendron Girls State to always continue learning and maintain the friendships they establish.
Organizers at Girls State surprised Miller during inauguration ceremonies there Thursday by naming her an honorary citizen of the group.
Miller has taught about county government at Girls State since first taking office as circuit clerk court in 1999 - just after Girls State moved to the Wheeling Jesuit University Campus from Jackson's Mill in Lewis County, W.Va.
Photo by Joselyn King
Irene Weber, left, director of Rhododendron Girls State, presents Ohio County Circuit Court Clerk Brenda Miller with a certificate identifying her as an official citizen of Girls State.
"Girls State has had a lot of success here due to Brenda," said Irene Weber, director of Rhododendron Girls State. "She has supported us every year. And we're not used to that.
"We came here from Jackson's Mill, which is a little more rural. There was not the support there that Wheeling has given us."
Each year, about 400 young women from across West Virginia attend Rhododendron Girls State on the WJU campus, where they learn about government and elections.
On Thursday, Miller swore in the young women elected to office at Girls State this week.
"I never got to attend Girls State," she told the gathering. "When I got the opportunity to teach here, I jumped at it."
Miller added she also didn't get to attend college in her years just after high school. But in 2011, both she and her son, Michael McDonald, graduated from West Liberty University. Miller obtained a business degree that year, while her son graduated with a degree in teaching.
She told the young women to "have goals in life and dreams," and to surround themselves with family and friends.
"If you have all of those things in life, you'll have everything," Miller said. "And if you can dream it, dream big.
"Educate yourself. Learn as much as possible, and keep on going."
She acknowledged many women often have to work harder to achieve success.
"Life is a little more difficult for women," Miller told the young women. "But you can do it."
A resident from the Northern Panhandle was among the Girls State citizens elected to office and sworn in by Miller on Thursday.
Ava Tennant of Wheeling, a student at The Linsly School, was elected commissioner of agriculture. She is the daughter of Don and Kathleen Tennant of Wheeling.