Molly Walker grew up watching TV news, with parents who often talked about politics. From an early age, she learned about the political process.
That learning curve will accelerate this summer.
A rising senior at Robinson High School, Molly is one of only two North Carolina girls selected for Girls Nation, a week-long immersion in government that runs July 23-30 in Washington, D.C.
She and other Girls Nation "senators" from around the country will meet with U.S. representatives, debate issues and participate in mock campaigns and elections. They'll also tour the Capitol and the White House, and maybe meet the president.
In June, Molly attended the state program, called Tar Heel Girls State, at Catawba College in Salisbury. Rising seniors are selected for leadership, character, scholarship and school and community service.
"Everything in my life is about politics. That's kind of strange for a 17-year-old girl," said Molly, the daughter of Don and Linda Walker of Concord. "There's a passion I have for that.... That's something I would want to share with the girls from other states."
On learning she would go to Washington, Molly was so happy that she doubled over and cried. Each year about 20,000 girls attend Girls State programs.
Molly is one of just 98 who will go to the Washington event, said Janice MacLeod, secretary of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 523 in Harrisburg, which sponsored Molly and two others for Girls State.
There, Molly said, her favorite memory was the reverent Flag Day ceremony.
"All the commissioners put their hands over their hearts. They held their elbows up," she said of the American Legion Auxiliary commissioners. "They explained to us, 'If you don't lift your elbow, you're not holding it high and proud.' That's the first lesson in patriotism."
In Concord, Molly has served on the Concord Youth Council and has an internship with the city. Now she's ready to hit the nation's capital.
"This is an outstanding accomplishment," MacLeod said. "I hope I live long enough to see all that she can do."
For MacLeod and others, Molly offers a glimpse into her ideal future.
"I definitely want to be in the federal government ... high up in the executive branch," said Molly, who wants to study pre-law at Duke University. "I'd love someday to be, like, the attorney general. It's a big dream - but you never know."