Arizona Students Selected for US Senate Youth Program

Published: January 28th, 2019

The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) announces that high school students Mr. Joshua Daniel Garay and Mr. Abhinav Sai Kolli will join Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Martha McSally in representing Arizona in the nation’s capital during the 57th annual USSYP Washington Week, to be held March 2 — 9, 2019. Joshua Garay of Yuma and Abhinav Kolli of Chandler were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation who will also each receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study.

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. Originally proposed by Senators Kuchel, Mansfield, Dirksen and Humphrey, 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.”

Each year this extremely competitive merit-based program brings the most 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 week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound 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. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in S.Res.324, no government funds are utilized.

Joshua Garay, a senior at Kofa High School, serves as governor of Arizona’s Junior State of America. In Joshua’s words, “I plan to devote my entire life to the idea that no matter what the color of your skin is, no matter what background you come from, no matter where you were born, everyone deserves the same level of representation.” He has volunteered in many capacities to better the lives of many, organizing a March for Our Lives in rural Arizona and attending various political party meetings and voter registration drives. Joshua is also the president of Kofa High School’s Academic Decathlon class and chess team.

Abhinav Kolli, a junior at Basis Chandler High School, serves as the president of the Student Board, founded and manages the Business and Investment Club, and has worked as an intern for Senator Jeff Flake. Abhi stood out as a hard worker and demonstrated the ability to understand the needs of the office and showed initiative to fulfill those needs. His skill at interaction with constituents and staff was effective and professional. After majoring in political science in college, Abhi aspires to a career as an economic policy advisor, either to an elected representative, or at the Federal Reserve.

Chosen as alternates to the 2019 program were Ms. Leila Hamilton, a resident of Chandler, who attends Seton Catholic Preparatory High School and Ms. Anusha Natarajan, also a resident of Chandler, who attends Hamilton High School.

Delegates and alternates 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 Arizona delegates and alternates were designated by Ms. Diane M. Douglas, 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 will also tour many of the national monuments and several museums and they will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 5,700 strong, alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities that are often directed toward public service. Among the many distinguished alumni are: Senator Susan Collins, the first alumnus to be elected U.S. senator; Senator Cory Gardner, the second alumnus to be elected U.S. senator and the first to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first alumnus to be elected governor; former Chief Judge Robert Henry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, and former presidential advisors Thomas “Mack” McLarty and Karl Rove. Additional notables include former Lt. Governor of Idaho David Leroy, Provost of Wake Forest University Rogan Kersh, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, healthcare providers and other university educators.

Members of the bipartisan U. S. Senate Youth Program 2019 Senate Advisory Committee: Senator Joni K. Ernst of Iowa, Republican Co-Chair; Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Democratic Co-Chair; Advisory Members: Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Each year, the Honorary Co-Chairs of the program are the vice president of the United States and the Senate majority and minority leaders.

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