Adriana Rubertone was ecstatic when she learned early last month that she was selected to attend the American Legion’s Empire Girls State convention, a prestigious annual leadership program for young women that is being held this week at SUNY Brockport.
Then, Rubertone, 17, of Glen Head, an incoming senior at North Shore High School in Glen Head, asked organizers about the difference between Girls State and Boys State, a parallel program for boys. She learned that the boys program usually features a high-profile political guest speaker. U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, a Republican who represents areas upstate, spoke at the boys event on June 24 at Morrisville State College.
No keynote speaker was for set for the Girls State schedule. And Rubertone felt the boys program is generally presented as a more prestigious event. Irked, she immediately set out to correct what she felt was inequity between the two programs.
On June 8, she sent letters to three prominent women officials inviting them to speak at Girls State. She received two form letters turning her down. Then she got a call from the office of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The senator, a top promoter of women’s rights in the Senate, accepted the invitation.
“I sent out the letters just to say, ‘I tried.’ I didn’t know if anyone would respond,” Rubertone said. “I was beyond excited when she got back.”
Gillibrand, speaking by phone just after her Girls State speech on Monday, said she was impressed by Rubertone’s gumption.
“The letter that Adriana sent was very bold, very determined. And I decided that we should reward that boldness.”
Gillibrand said former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gillibrand’s predecessor in the Senate seat, was her role model when she was younger, and she was inspired as a young woman when she attended a Clinton speech.
Regarding Monday’s event, Gillibrand said, “I thought that this was my chance to be that kind of role model for these girls.”
A proud Rubertone said Gillibrand hit the mark.
“She was a strong influence on the girls and she encouraged them to all to get into politics.”