ARLINGTON, VA — March 17, 2010 — Two Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) students recently participated in the 48th Annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) in Washington, D.C.
Michael Zachau Walker, a junior at Ankara High School in Turkey, and Joshua Jones, a senior at Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan, were selected from hundreds of applicants to attend the Washington Week Program. In addition to participating in Washington Week both Walker and Jones will each receive a $5,000 college scholarship.
Every year the merit-based USSYP brings 104 of the most outstanding high school students — two from each state, the District of Columbia and DoDEA– 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 a more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service.
Participants of the USSYP stayed a week at the historic Mayflower Hotel and spent much of their week touring downtown Washington D.C. The students visited the Supreme Court, the monuments, and a number of Smithsonian museums. They also had the opportunity to meet and speak to President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“It is very surreal to see these politicians on TV and in the newspaper all the time and to actually see them come into the room. It doesn’t feel real,” said Jones. “It is really nice to know that these are the people that run our government and represent us. They are personable and can relate to the people that they are representing.”
Another highlight for both Walker and Jones was meeting with peers who also had an interest in politics.
“… It was great because I’m with people who are as driven and motivated as I am. It’s great to be able to talk to these students who care about some of the same things that I do,” said Jones. “They’re on the same level even if they have different viewpoints.”
Both Walker and Jones advise students seeking to apply to USSYP to strive to meet their goals and to always think about others.
“One of the things that I really liked about this trip was getting to meeting President Obama. He said, ‘Don’t spend your time thinking about what you want to be, spend your time thinking about what you want to do.’ And I think those words really ring true in pursuit of anything,” said Walker. “Spend your time doing something for your school, for kids, for your family. If you look at yourself in that aspect you will be eligible for this program.”
Jones echoed Walker’s sentiments about the President’s words to the students.
“President Obama said that if you want to go into politics or something like the Youth Senate Program think about empowering others not just yourself. The more you try to help others the more you will help yourself,” said Jones.
DoDEA plans, directs, coordinates, and manages pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education programs for Department of Defense (DoD) dependents who would otherwise not have access to a high-quality, public education. DoDEA schools are located in Europe, the Pacific, the United States, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. DoDEA also provides support and resources to Local Education Activities throughout the U.S. that serve children of military families.