The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) announces that high school students Ms. Mekdes Teshome Hilete and Ms. Haiden Elizabeth Wiggins will join Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley in representing Oregon in the nation’s capital during the 58th annual USSYP Washington Week, to be held March 7 — 14, 2020. Mekdes Hilete of Portland and Haiden Wiggins of Cove were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation who will also each receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study.
The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 and has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations since inception. Originally proposed by Senators Kuchel, Mansfield, Dirksen and Humphrey, the impetus for the program as stated in Senate testimony is “to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, learn the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and emphasize the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.”
Each year this extremely competitive merit-based program brings the most outstanding high school students – two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity – to Washington, D.C. for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundations provide each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in S.Res.324, no government funds are utilized.
Mekdes Hilete, a senior at Jefferson High School, serves as the representative to the Portland Public School’s International Youth Leadership Council. She is determined to serve immigrant and newcomer students through her involvement in the International Youth Leadership Council and the International Culture Club at her school which she co-founded. Mekdes has earned a diploma from the city of Portland for completing a year-long community organizing training through Unite Oregon. She is the captain of her Mock Trial team, president of the Constitution Club and Jefferson’s MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) chapter. Mekdes plans to attend a four-year university, majoring in biology, while she continues to engage in leadership roles within her school and outside.
Haiden Wiggins, a junior at Cove High School, serves as the Junior Class President, the local Future Business Leaders of America chapter president and the local Future Farmers of America chapter vice president. She attends School Board meetings to provide updates to board members on various student activities. Haiden also leads her Speech and Debate team as the captain. As a childhood cancer survivor, she was chosen as the state ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network while living in Wyoming and met with President George W. Bush and the late Wyoming senator, Craig Thomas, regarding childhood cancer advocacy.
Chosen as alternates to the 2020 program were Mr. Alex Peters, a resident of Portland, who attends Alliance High School at Benson and Mr. Masaki Lew, a resident of Clackamas, who attends Clackamas High School.
Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity, after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s Oregon delegates and alternates were designated by Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education.
While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators, members of the House of Representatives, Congressional staff, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media.
In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 5,700 strong, alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities that are often directed toward public service. Among the many distinguished alumni are: Senator Susan Collins, the first alumnus to be elected U.S. senator; Senator Cory Gardner, the second alumnus to be elected U.S. senator and the first to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first alumnus to be elected governor; former Chief Judge Robert Henry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, former presidential advisors Thomas “Mack” McLarty and Karl Rove, and Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana currently a candidate for president of the United States. Additional notables include former Lt. Governor of Idaho David Leroy, Provost of Wake Forest University Rogan Kersh, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, healthcare providers and other university educators.
For more information please visit: www.ussenateyouth.org