How was the Senate Youth Program founded?
The program began in 1962 when Senate Resolution 324 was introduced by Senators Tom Kuchel (R-CA) Assistant Minority Leader, Mike Mansfield (D-MT) Majority Leader, Everett Dirksen (R-IL) Minority Leader and Hubert Humphrey (D-MN) Assistant Majority Leader. The impetus was to create a program for high school students that would “increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.” The Hearst Foundations pledged to support the funding and administration of the program as long as the Senate would sponsor it. The Senate passed S. Res. 324 on May 17, 1962 and has continued its sponsorship of the Senate Youth Program by unanimous action each year through the Senate Rules Committee.
How are the student delegates selected?
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. The 104 student delegates also receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue their studies in government and history. Public and private high school teachers and principals nominate qualified students beginning 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. Many states administer a comprehensive public affairs, government and history test prepared annually for the program by a college professor of political science and states may also ask for additional essays and/or personal interviews. The chief state school officer in each state makes the final selection by December 1. The program is merit-based and highly competitive and the chosen delegates are consistently outstanding. For details see www.ussenateyouth.org: “How to Apply“.
What happens during Washington Week?
Washington Week is an intensive week of unparalleled educational activities in the nation’s capital encompassing the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government as well as a perspective on America from abroad. Events include meeting with the Senate Co-Chairs and other Senate leaders, the secretary of the Senate, Senate parliamentarian and Senate historian, the president of the United States, a justice of the Supreme Court, members of the House of Representatives, officials from the Departments of State and Defense and other executive agencies, a foreign ambassador to the U.S. and senior members of the media. At each event the question and answer session is extensive giving the students direct interaction with the speaker. The Department of Defense also provides a team of selected military officers to accompany the delegates throughout the program. A highlight of the week is the USSYP Annual Senate Reception where all student delegates have an opportunity to meet their U.S. senators.
What role do senators and Senate staff have in the program?
Every year, two senators are chosen, one from each party, to serve as the program’s Co-Chairs and eight additional senators are chosen for the bipartisan Senate Advisory Committee, which serves in name only. The Honorary Co-Chairs are always the vice president of the United States, the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader. The Senate Co-Chairs agree to address the students at separate speaking engagements and invitations to other speakers are signed by the Co-Chairs on full Committee letterhead. USSYP staff works closely with the Senate Co-Chairs’ offices to facilitate all communication and event arrangements. All senators are invited to meet their student delegates and present them with their scholarship certificates at the Annual Senate Youth Program Reception, which takes place on Wednesday of Washington Week in the Kennedy Caucus Room. Senators are photographed there with their student delegates for the USSYP yearbook – over a 50-year tradition. Senate education and press staff can also help promote the program in their states through websites, press releases, newsletters and meetings with educators. USSYP staff are available year-round to support Senate staff outreach or inquiries.
How can a Senate office support the program?
Senate staff can help support the USSYP in various ways. One easy step is to put a link to the USSYP website www.ussenateyouth.org on the senator’s website – especially if you have an ‘education’ section — so that students or teachers searching the senator’s site can be made aware of the program. Standard language summarizing the program is available for website use. The program can be mentioned in the senator’s newsletter and in press releases – best timing: late summer and early fall to alert teachers and principals to nominate students and in January to congratulate the winners. Another idea is to add USSYP as a talking point when meeting with high school educators in your state. When the delegates are selected each December, USSYP staff will send all Senate press secretaries and education LAs the names and addresses of the winners and many senators send a personal letter of congratulations to the delegates. Finally, please help us to ensure that all senators attend the 55th annual USSYP Senate Reception to be held on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, from 5:00-7:00 PM in the Senate Caucus Room (SR 325). This event is the one certain opportunity that all delegates have to meet with their senators. At the reception photos are taken by Senate photographers for the USSYP yearbook and senators ask the delegates about their Washington Week experience and congratulate them on receiving their college scholarships. Senators also often sign the actual scholarship certificates at this event. Although it takes only a short time, it is an inspiration of a lifetime for these highly motivated students.