Curriculum and Instruction

William Randolph Hearst Foundation United States Senate Youth Program

Students Headed to Washington, D. C. and to Receive $5,000 Scholarship

January 8, 2015, Washington, D.C.

Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced the names of the two students who have been selected as delegates to the 53rd annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) that will be held March 7 – 14, 2015 in Washington, D.C. Justin Shapiro of Merrick and Ioana Solomon of Long Island City were chosen from across the state to be part of the group of 104 student delegates who will attend the program’s 53rd annual Washington Week.

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 104 of 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 $5,000 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.

Justin Shapiro attends Kennedy High School in Bellmore, N.Y. and serves as the Student Government press secretary. He is a climate leader with the Climate Reality Project, giving presentations on climate change throughout his community, fusing his interest in environmental issues with his passion for political activism. Justin is a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship with awards from numerous honor societies. He also plays saxophone and clarinet on the All-State level.

Ioana Solomon attends Stuyvesant High School and serves as the president of the Stuyvesant Speech and Debate team, budget director for the school’s Student Union, a member of the Communications committee of ARISTA (Stuyvesant’s chapter of the National Honor Society) and a columnist for the Stuyvesant Spectator. As a Congressional Debater, Ioana has been a finalist or semifinalist at most of the national tournaments she has attended. Among other achievements, she was twice awarded Best Delegate at the Brown University Model UN conferences, has worked on numerous campaigns, and was a member of the United States Crew at the 2014 Atlantic Challenge International Seamanship Contest.

Chosen as alternates to the 2015 program were Laura Hausman, a resident of New York, who attends The Brearley School and Brian Becker, a resident of Rye Brook, who attends Blind Brook High School.

The chief educational officer in each state selects the delegates after nomination by teachers and principals. This year’s delegates were designated by former Commissioner of Education Dr. John King, Jr.

While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with Senators, House Representatives and 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. The students will also tour many of the national monuments and several museums and they will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates generally rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 5,000 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 alumna 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; 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, and former presidential advisors Thomas "Mack" McLarty and Karl Rove. Additional notables include former Lt. Governor of Idaho David Leroy, former president of the Progressive Policy Institute Robert Shapiro, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, healthcare providers and university educators.

Members of the USSYP 2015 53rd annual Senate Advisory Committee are:
Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Republican Co-Chair; Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Democratic Co-Chair; Senate Advisory Members: Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME). Each year, the Honorary Co-Chairs of the program are the Vice President of the United States and the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders.

Application Process

Each year, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation external link icon, in cooperation with the United States Senate and the education departments of all the states, sponsors the United States Senate Youth Program. Two student leaders from each state and the District of Columbia are selected to participate in a week-long government leadership program in Washington, DC (all expenses paid). The students engage in a series of seminars and briefings with Senators and members of the House of Representatives, and meet with officials of the executive and judicial branches of government. Each student delegate will also receive a one-time $5,000 college scholarship, provided that two full courses in United States, government, history, and/or political science are taken by the student at an accredited institution during the student’s future college or university career.

The Washington, DC segment of the program will take place from March 5-12, 2016.

The principal of a New York State high school may select only one candidate for this statewide competition. Any high school junior or senior is eligible. Districts with more than one high school can nominate a candidate from each high school. The nominee must currently (2015–2016) be serving in an elected capacity in any one of the following student government offices:

  • Student body president, vice-president, secretary, or treasurer
  • Class president, vice-president, secretary, or treasurer
  • Student council representative

A student who is a representative to a district, regional or state-level civic or education organization may also be nominated.

Students must submit: 

  1. An application form signed by the building principal
    Word application form Word document icon (51KB)
  2. Student transcript/standardized test data
  3. A student essay on a significant currently debated issue or problem before the United States Congress. The student must (1) identify and describe the controversy surrounding the issue or problem, (2) state major points of view on the matter expressed by members of Congress and others, and (3) take a position on the issue or problem. The position should be supported by specific evidence and reasoning. References must be cited.
    Students applying for a second time may not use a previously submitted essay.
    NOTE: The essay must not exceed 4 pages, double spaced in Arial 12 font, between 1000 and 1200 words; the word count must appear at the bottom of the page.
  4. A student statement of leadership activities, on a separate sheet of paper, that describe activities and interests that demonstrate the student’s leadership qualities and activities at school and/or in the community. Activities that demonstrate the student’s interest in the political process of governance should be emphasized.
    NOTE: The essay must not exceed 1 page, double spaced in Arial 12 font; it may not exceed 300 words.
  5. Resume (Extra Curricula Activities)
  6. A letter of recommendation from the high school principal and/or designee.

The student application form must be postmarked on or before
Friday, October 2, 2015.

Special Notes

  • If any of the above is missing from the final application packet, the application will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.
  • If a school district has more than one high school, each high school may submit a nomination to the United States Senate Youth Program. 
  • If a high school submits more than one nomination, neither nomination will be considered.
  • Applications must have adequate postage.
  • In the event that an applicant becomes a semifinalist, the student must be able to come to Albany for a personal interview. Partial reimbursement for travel expenses may be available.


Last Updated: January 15, 2015