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Kansas students selected for United States Senate Youth Program

Posted: Feb 24, 2021
Categories: KSDE
Author: Ann Bush

Two Kansas students have been selected as delegates to the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) that will take place virtually March 14-17, 2021.

Sean-Patrick James Hurst, a junior at Yates Center High School, and Seth Christopher Jarvis, a senior at Burlington High School, were selected to join the 104-student delegation that will virtually attend Washington Week. They each will receive a $10,000 scholarship for undergraduate study.

Because of the pandemic, the 2021 program will break ground as the first-ever fully virtual Washington Week.

Hurst serves president of the junior class and is a member of the student council at Yates Center High School, Woodson Unified School District 366. He is captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams and is active in the Kansas Special Olympics, organizing community dinners and fundraising events for the program.

After high school, Hurst plans to attend the United States Naval Academy while pursuing a degree in general engineering. Upon graduation from college, he plans to join the Marine Corps.

Jarvis serves as president of the National Honor Society and drama club representative to the student council at Burlington High School, Burlington USD 244. He has served as senior patrol leader of his Boy Scout Troop twice and has achieved his Eagle Scout award.

Jarvis also served as class president his junior year and editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. He is very active in his community and volunteers. After high school, Jarvis plans to attend college and major in history.

Chosen as alternates to the 2021 program were Charles Birt, who lives in Prairie Village and attends Shawnee Mission East High School, Shawnee Mission USD 512, and Sean Wentling, who lives in Derby and attends Derby High School, Derby USD 260.

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 received 34 applications. The exams and essays are graded, and the top four applicants were selected. Delegates and alternates are authorized by Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson.

In years past, the competitive merit-based program would send the 104 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 weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it. However, because of the pandemic, student delegates this year will attend online meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies and senior members of the national media.

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. 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. 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.

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 5,800 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 the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), at tmiller@ksde.org or (785) 296-4950.

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

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