ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA — March 11, 2011 — Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) students, Ryan McDonnell and Robert DeWitt, recently travelled to Washington, D.C. as part of the 49th Annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). The U.S. Senate Resolution established the United States Senate Youth Program in 1962 for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service.
McDonnell and DeWitt were among the 104 delegates selected to participate in the program which included a week-long visit to Washington D.C. to get a first-hand look at our country's government. During the week they met with and heard from senators, cabinet members, and officials from the Departments of State and Defense; Federal Agency directors; and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. The students also met with President Barack Obama.
"It was a surreal experience - to hear the most powerful man in the world speak to us," said McDonnell.
In addition to meeting the President, McDonnell and DeWitt both agreed that the highlights of their week in Washington were meeting with and listening to Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas.
"For me, the most memorable part of this week was meeting with Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu," said McDonnell. "He talked about America's energy future and the development right now in terms of energy sources."
"I enjoyed meeting with Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas," said DeWitt. He actually granted more time to us than he would a typical court case. For me, that really showed that he cared about the youth of America. We appreciated his sincerity and his thoughts that he felt comfortable with us becoming the next generation of politicians."
Each of the 104 delegates receives a $5,000 scholarship and the encouragement to pursue taking college courses in government, history, and public affairs.
McDonnell, a senior at Lakenheath High School in Lakenheath, England, is treasurer for his class and Vice President of the National Honor Society. He is first in his class academically and participates on both the Model United Nations (MUN) and the Model United States Senate. McDonnell plays varsity soccer, varsity cross country, and is captain of his varsity golf team. He is also an active participant of his local youth group and is an Eagle Scout. McDonnell has plans to major in Aerospace Engineering in college and is interested in a career with the U.S. Air Force.
DeWitt, a junior at Aviano Middle/High School in Aviano, Italy, is the Vice President of his class. He has been an active member of the International Student Leadership Institute as a participant and as a director. DeWitt is also the secretary of National Honor Society (NHS) at his school. He was involved in the BrainBowl, and is active in Italian Club. DeWitt is also an accomplished pianist and the captain of his soccer team.
After high school, he plans to major in political science and then attend law school and eventually become a lawyer for the U.S. Air Force. The United States Senate Youth Program has been beneficial for both McDonnell and DeWitt and they recommended that other interested students apply for the program.
"The program's been phenomenal not only getting to visit the different departments here in Washington but also getting to meet the future leaders of America," said DeWitt. "There are 103 other delegates that I am sure I will see in the future... in our career field is really neat for me because this is the next generation of American politicians. It's phenomenal to not only learn about politics, but also learn about the other people that you'll be working with later on in your career."
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, Guam and Puerto Rico. DoDEA also provides support and resources to Local Education Activities throughout the U.S. that serve children of military families.To learn more about the USSYP visit: www.ussenateyouth.org.