The United States Senate Youth Program announced last week that Donegal High School senior Emily M. Ashley will join Democratic Sen. Robert P. Casey and Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey in representing Pennsylvania during the 58th annual USSYP Washington Week. The event will be held March 7-14 in the nation’s capital.
Emily is one of only two Pennsylvania students selected for the program. The other is Viktor Shamis-Kagan, of Philadelphia.
They were chosen from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104-member national student delegation; each will receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study, according to a news release.
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,” according to the release.
The competitive, merit-based program assembles 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, the release noted.
The program is designed to help foster a lifelong commitment to public service. The $10,000 undergraduate scholarship is provided by Hearst with encouragement to continue studies in government, history and public affairs, the release noted. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in Senate Resolution 324, no government funds are utilized.
Secretary of Donegal’s senior class, Emily Ashley is president of both the National Honor Society and the Math Honor Society. She is a captain on the tennis team and was the 2019 Lancaster-Lebanon player of the year. Emily is a member of the National Art Honors Society, Link Crew, Key Club, and the Booster Club.
In her spare time, she works with the Prince Elementary After School Ballet, an organization that offers ballet lessons to underprivileged youth. She plans to study political science and psychology and then attend law school.
Delegates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity, after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s Pennsylvania delegates and alternates were designated by Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera.
While in Washington student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators, members of the House of Representatives, congressional staff, the president, a Supreme Court justice, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media.
In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, according to the news release, the student delegates rank academically in the top 1% of their states among high school juniors and seniors.
Honorary co-chairs for the 2020 program are Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Charles Schumer.
Among the program alumni are Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Cory Gardner, and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Visit ussenateyouth.org for more information.