Senate Staff  :    FAQ

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 annually from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity to serve as delegates to Washington Week. The program week takes place the first or second week of March each year, traditionally in the nation’s capital, but in an immersive and interactive online format for March 2021.  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 late summer and early fall. Qualified applicants 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 February 5, 2021. 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 2021?

Washington Week, an intensive week of unparalleled educational experiences, will be offered in 2021 in a completely virtual format, with interactive forums encompassing the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Events potentially include virtual meetings with the Senate Co-Chairs and other Senate leaders, the 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 and senior members of the media. At each event an extensive question and answer session gives the students direct interaction with the speaker. The Department of Defense provides a team of competitively selected military officers to mentor and offer guidance to the delegates throughout the program.  These officers, from each service branch and the reserves embody the highest level of excellence and service to the nation and act as elite role models for the students.  A highlight of the week is the USSYP annual Senate Youth Program Reception where all student delegates have an opportunity to meet their U.S. Senators, traditionally in person, but for 2021 in designated online conference rooms where a Senator can visit with home state delegates.

What role do senators and Senate staff have in the program?

Two Senators, one from each party, are asked to serve as the annual Co-Chairs and eight additional Senators representing different regions of the country agree to lend their names to the bipartisan Senate Advisory Committee. 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, including other Senators, are signed by the Co-Chairs on program letterhead listing the full Advisory Committee.  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 at the USSYP Annual Senate Reception, which will take place on Wednesday March 17, 2021. Senate education and press staff can also help promote the program in their states through websites, social media, 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 information about the program on the Senator’s website to increase awareness of the program with teachers and students in your state to encourage interested students to apply.  Standard language summarizing the program is available for website use. The program can be mentioned in the Senator’s newsletter, social media sites and in press releases – best timing: September-early December 2021 to alert teachers and principals to nominate students and in February to congratulate the winners.

Please add USSYP as a talking point when meeting with high school educators in your state.  When the delegates are selected in February 2021, USSYP staff will send Senate schedulers, press secretaries and education legislative policy staff the names and addresses of the delegates so the Senator can send a personal letter of congratulations. Finally, please help us to ensure that all Senators attend the 59th USSYP Annual Senate Reception to be held on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 from 5:00-7:00 PM EST. USSYP staff will coordinate the logistics of this online reception with each Senate office, and provide video links directly to home state delegates to facilitate a quick conversation. It is not too early to save the date!