KSDE Weekly

Feature Story

Kansas students selected for United States Senate Youth Program

Two Kansas students have been selected as delegates to the 62nd annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) that will take place March 2-9, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Tucker Leck, a junior at Neodesha High School, Neodesha Unified School District 461, and Madisen Finch, a junior at Leavenworth High School, Leavenworth USD 453, were selected to join the 104-student delegation that will attend Washington Week. They each will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs.

Leck, the son of Talia and Marcus Leck, serves as the southeast district reporter for the Kansas FFA organization. In this position, he is responsible for agriculture news and information for the 28 school districts he represents. He also serves as a district leader and liaison for members during several district activities.

At the 96th annual national FFA convention, Leck placed fourth in the nation in the prepared public speaking competition. In 2022, Leck was the national reserve champion speaker in the FFA Creed Speaking Leadership Development Event at the national FFA convention.

Leck serves as vice president for his local FFA chapter and is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, forensics, Scholar’s Bowl team and is the vice president of the Lucky Horseshoe 4-H Club. He also is the co-editor of his high school yearbook and served as the Kansas Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) first vice president for the 2022-2023 school year.

“Tucker is an absolutely fabulous student,” said Juanita Erickson, superintendent of Neodesha USD 461. “He has high goals and high aspirations. Tucker is very interested in politics. I cannot wait to someday see him as our governor.”

Leck plans to attend Kansas State University after graduation to major in agricultural economics with a pre-law specialty.

Finch, daughter of Madeleine and Eric Finch, serves as secretary of Leavenworth High School’s Student Council, president of Model UN and president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. She also serves as treasurer of the Leavenworth Chapter of the Kansas Association for Youth (KAY) club and captain of the swim team. She is an active member in the National Honor Society and the Junior Class Cabinet.

Outside of school, Finch has worked with the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio in winter and summer workshops, as well as the Kansas City Mensa chapter. She has received an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Electrical Mechanic certification and has participated in career and technical education programs and businesses in and outside of her community. Finch has been active in organizing dances, fundraisers and student events for her school and the community. She also has been active in raising awareness about gender equity issues.

Finch plans to major in English or linguistics before pursuing a doctorate or juris doctorate in similar fields. Through graduate work, she plans to use language to tackle current political polarization and issues she is passionate about, including climate change, abortion rights, prison reform and intersectional approaches to international issues.

“Madisen Finch exemplifies the spirit of excellence and dedication, and we are thrilled to celebrate her well-deserved recognition as a United States Senate Youth Program representative,” said James Vanek, Leavenworth High School principal. “Her commitment to leadership and community involvement has set her apart, making a positive impact on both her peers and community. I believe Madisen will go on to create positive changes in our lives in a way that we don’t even realize yet. I am incredibly proud to be a part of her high school journey.”

Chosen as alternates to the 2024 program were Sophia Weber, who attends Herington High School, Herington USD 487, and Quintin Hoppe, of Leavenworth, who attends Pleasant Ridge High School, Easton USD 449.

Delegates and alternates are selected by state departments of education, after nomination by teachers and principals. The Chief State School Officer or Commissioner of Education for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection.

In Kansas, applicants have to pass a multiple-choice exam based on state and national government and write an essay. This year, the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) received 22 applications. The exams and essays are graded, and the top four applicants are selected. Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson authorized the delegates and alternates.

The 104 outstanding high school students — two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity — will head to Washington, D.C., in March for an intensive weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it. During Washington Week, the student delegates will attend meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court and leaders of cabinet agencies.

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 its inception. 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."

The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. The Hearst Foundations provide each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship.

In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top 1% of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 6,100 strong, alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities that are often directed toward public service.

For questions about delegates, alternates or the selection process, contact Tamla Miller, Kansas Senate Youth coordinator at KSDE, via email at tmiller@ksde.org or by phone at (785) 296-4950.

For more information on USSYP, visit www.ussenateyouth.org.

Posted: Jan 11, 2024,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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