The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) is an intensive week-long educational experience and scholarship sponsored by the United States Senate for outstanding high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in public service. If you are a high school junior or senior already serving as an elected official in your student body or other state or community organization, you may already be qualified to apply.
The mission of the United States Senate Youth Program is to provide a yearly opportunity for selected students to gain an in-depth view of the Senate and the federal government overall as well as a deeper understanding of the interrelationship of the legislative, judicial and executive branches. The program provides a foundation of knowledge and encouragement for those considering a future of public service on the local, state or national level.
The USSYP is a true partnership among government leaders, state and national education leaders and America’s future leaders. Two high school juniors or seniors are selected each year from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity to serve as delegates to Washington Week which generally takes place the first or second week of March.
During Washington Week the student delegates meet and learn from the highest level elected and appointed officials in Washington. The delegates attend briefings and meetings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, cabinet members, federal agency leaders and senior members of the national media. At least seventeen military officers, representing each of the military services and the Coast Guard, serve as mentors for the students during the week. The military mentors are competitively selected by Department of Defense staff, representing one of the longest standing partnerships between the Department of Defense and a national youth program. This in-depth exposure to leadership at the highest levels is precisely what fuels and sustains the delegates’ commitment to making a difference in their country, communities and schools. (see Delegate Essays)
The 104 student delegates also receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship to the college or university of their choice with encouragement to continue coursework in government and history. The Hearst Foundations have fully funded the USSYP since its inception, including transportation, accommodations, meals and individual college scholarships – no government funds are ever utilized.
The selection process begins when public and private high school teachers and principals nominate qualified students starting in early fall. To qualify, students must hold student body office or another elected or appointed position in their communities and show academic interest and aptitude in government, history and politics. Selection processes vary by state, but many states administer a comprehensive public affairs, government and history test prepared annually for the program by a college professor of political science. States may also ask for additional essays and/or personal interviews. The chief state school officer in each state makes the final selection of two delegates and two alternates by December 1. The program is merit-based and highly competitive and the chosen delegates are consistently of the highest caliber in the nation.