Weekly Column

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In 1962, senators worked in bipartisan fashion to adopt Senate Resolution 324, which expressed a willingness to participate in a nationwide high school competition that gives students instruction about how the U.S. Senate, and the federal government in general, operates. This resolution gave birth to the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Two high school juniors or seniors from every state are selected every year to serve as delegates to Washington Week, which generally takes place in early March.

Encouraging and developing future leaders is important for our democracy.  The Senate Youth Program offers training about "the interrelationships of the three branches of government, the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.”

With the support of The Hearst Foundation, led by William Randolph Hearst's sons George and Randolph, funding for the program has been granted to the USSYP for as long as the Senate will sponsor it. The program has a long history of bipartisan support. Senators make a strong effort to attend the annual USSYP reception, where they engage with all of the student delegates and listen to speakers.

This year, it was my privilege to serve as a Bipartisan Senate Advisory Member of the USSYP. Through this important program, the Senate recognized the achievements of two amazing young leaders from Nebraska, Nicole Fintel and Bouthaina Ibrahim, both Lincoln residents. These Nebraskans are passionate, determined, and engaged. They want to make a real difference in their schools, community, and around the world. I was excited to welcome both of them to the Senate at the special reception.

Nicole Fintel, a Lincoln East High School student, serves as the vice president of her junior class. She is a student ambassador, plays violin in her school's varsity orchestra, and is a member of the speech team. Nicole has completed an internship in the U.S. House of Representatives and has volunteered on two political campaigns. In addition to her current internship at Nebraskans for Civic Reform, she has interned in a biology lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Bouthaina Ibrahim attends Lincoln Northeast High School and serves as the vice president of the Student Council. Her interests include the humanities, specifically history and philosophy, as well as the social sciences. Bouthaina hopes to one day become a United States ambassador and work on major political, social, and cultural issues. She is passionate about the success of the nation and making a difference in the world.

Nicole and Bouthaina joined 102 students from across the country to learn more about the American political process in our nation’s capital. The program’s schedule included visits with congressional leaders, cabinet members, officials representing the Departments of State and Defense, as well as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Both will be awarded a $10,000 college scholarship provided by The Hearst Foundation.

The USSYP serves as a great partnership between federal and local leaders and offers a good learning experience for future leaders of tomorrow. If you are in high school and already serving as an elected member of your student body, or another state or community organization, I encourage you to apply.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.