Samantha Dodd once read that every year 650,000 people shake the hand of the president of the United States - and she never imagined that she would be one of them.
Dodd, a senior at Wheeling Park High School, was one of only two chosen from 400 young women at West Virginia Girls State to go on to American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. this past July, an honor that earned her a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.
"I met with Barack Obama and that was incredible. He was just so personable and you could tell everyone was nervous, there were girls crying," Dodd said. "He had a smile on his face and he took time to hug and talk to every one of us. You have to respect a politician who takes time to do that."
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Samantha Dodd, a senior at Wheeling Park High School, was one of two young women from West Virginia chosen to participate in Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. this past July, an honor that led her to the White House to meet the president and a visit to a veteran’s hospital in Bethesda, Md., to meet with wounded soldiers.
In addition to meeting the president, Dodd said her most memorable experience at Girls Nation was a visit to a veterans hospital in Bethesda, Md., to meet with wounded soldiers. She said their patriotism and pride and their deep love for the United States made her "look at America completely differently."
"It's surprising, you don't realize how much the veterans really do for our country," Dodd said. "When we talked to them, everything they said was about how they want to have their families have a safe home. It's just incredible to think that someone's willing to give their life for the United States, they're not just thinking about themselves."
Dodd also had the opportunity to meet with Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., to speak with them and tour their offices.
"You can see how much (Manchin and Rockefeller) care about West Virginia. They asked us what our goals were and showed us how it affects our community," Dodd said.
When not meeting with national figures and veterans, Dodd said she learned about parliamentary procedure, how Senate sessions work and how to create a bill that contained what she "wanted to see change" in West Virginia. Dodd said after attending Girls Nation and Girls State, she pays more attention to politics and has a deeper appreciation of how the national government and how local governments work.
"After attending Girls State and Girls Nation, I definitely stand up and say the Pledge with more pride than I ever have before," Dodd said.
Dodd is the daughter of WPHS teacher Christy Dodd and her husband, Matt. Samantha is co-captain of the cross country team, president of Key Club and a volunteer for Easter Seals and the Wheeling Symphony. She plans to pursue an engineering degree and is still is deciding what college to attend.