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Local students to virtually head to D.C. as student delegates to U.S. Senate

FILE - (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
FILE - (AP Photo/J. David Ake)(J. David Ake | AP)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 12:23 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Local students will be virtually present at the nation’s capitol as student delegates to the U.S. Senate in March.

The Kansas State Department of Education says two students have been chosen as delegates to the 60th annual United States Senate Youth Program which will be held virtually March 6-9, 2022.

Junior at Oskaloosa High School, USD 431, Gerrit Dangermond, and senior at La Crosse High School, USD 395, William Rues, were chosen to join the 104-student delegation that will virtually attend Washington Week. Both will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue courses in government, history and public affairs.

KSDE said Dangermond serves as vice president of his junior class at Oskaloosa High. He is active in school and community activities and enjoys spending his free time getting to know his peers and working at the local food bank. He plans to teach high school social science after he graduates from college.

The Department said Rues serves as president of the National Honor Society at La Crosse High. He also has served in many leadership positions and competes in cross country and track. He recently had the chance to be a Boys State delegate and served in its Senate. He plans to attend the University of Kansas on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and major in history. After he serves in the Air Force, he plans to return to school to get a doctorate in European history.

The Department also said chosen as alternates to the 2022 program were Kevinh Nguyen, of Topeka, who attends Seaman High School, USD 345, and Andrew Phalen, of Lawrence, who attends Lawrence High School, USD 497.

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

In Kansas, KSDE said applicants have to pass a multiple-chose test based on state and national government and write an essay. For 2022, it said it received 45 applications. The tests and essays are graded and the top four applicants are chosen. Delegates and alternates were authorized by Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson.

In the past, the Department said the competitive merit-based program would send 104 students, two from each state, D.C. and the Department of Defense Education Activity, to the nation’s capitol for an intensive weeklong study of the federal government and those who lead it. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student delegates will attend virtual meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies and others.

KSDE said 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 program is meant “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 Department said the overall mission of the program is to help instill more knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service in student delegates. The Hearst Foundation provides each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship.

In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, KSDE said the student delegates rank academically in the top 1% of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now over 6,999 strong, it said alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities often directed toward public service.

For more information about the program, click HERE.

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