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.” In addition to participation in Washington Week, The Hearst Foundations provide each of the 104 student delegates with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week were also provided by The Hearst Foundations.
Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp announced the names of the two students who had been selected as delegates to the 55th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) that was held March 4-11, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Ms. Alyx Mae Schmitz of Oakes and Ms. Ashlen Wright of West Fargo were chosen from across the state to be part of the group of 104 student delegates who attended the program’s 55th annual Washington Week.
Alyx Schmitz attends Oakes High School and serves as the Student Body President. Alyx also serves as the secretary for the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center Advisory Committee. She was selected as a 2016 Girls Nation senator, a North Dakota ambassador to the National Student Leadership Summit, and North Dakota High School Activities Association Distinguished Student runner-up. Alyx is involved in varsity track and field, varsity basketball, varsity volleyball, choir, band, her church youth group, and several other community volunteer organizations. Alyx hopes to secure an internship with a North Dakota senator, practice law and run for an elected office.
Ashlen Wright attends West Fargo Sheyenne High School and serves as a member of the “Imagine Thriving” Regional Student Board. Ashlen founded Mining for GEMS: Girls in Engineering, Math and Science which has reached more than 1,700 girls. She serves on the STEM Student Advisory Board, and is president and founder of her high school’s Mental Health Awareness Club. She is a member of the American Mensa Honor Society and represented her school at the 2016 North Dakota State Leadership seminar. Ashlen served as a page for the 2016 NDGOP convention and was MVP for her Student Congress team. She participates in theatre and choir and is a member of the 2017 North Dakota Governor’s Chorus, and regularly performs the national anthem for North Dakota’s High School Association state championship games. Ashlen is a proud fifth generation North Dakotan and would like to run for public office in the future.
Chosen as alternates to the 2017 program were Francine Shaft, a resident of Grand Forks, who attends Red River High School and Macey Satrom, a resident of Page, who attends Hope High School.
Delegates and alternates are selected by 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 North Dakota delegates and alternates were designated by Kirsten Baesler, Superintendent of Public Instruction.
While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators, members of the House of Representatives, 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 also tour many of the national monuments and several museums and they stayed at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
Members of the United States Senate Youth Program 2017 annual Senate Advisory Committee include: Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Co-Chair; and Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Co-Chair.
For more information about the United States Senate Youth Program, please contact Patricia A. Laubach, State Selection Administrator, NDDPI at (701) 328-4525.