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What is the United States Senate Youth  Program?

The United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution in 1962 creating the United States Senate Youth Program, a national initiative to provide a yearly opportunity for talented young people with demonstrated leadership abilities to deepen their understanding of America’s political processes and strengthen their resolve to pursue careers in public service.

The mission of the United States Senate Youth Program is to provide a yearly opportunity for selected students to gain an in-depth view of the Senate and the federal government overall as well as a deeper understanding of the interrelationship of the legislative, judicial and executive branches. The program provides a foundation of knowledge and encouragement for those considering a future of public service on the local, state or national level. The impetus was to create a program for high school students that would “increase young Americans’ understanding of 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.”


The United States Senate Youth Program brings the highest-level officials from each branch of government together with an outstanding group of high-school students—two high school juniors or seniors from each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity—during an intensive week-long educational program held in Washington, DC. This includes Cabinet members, Ambassadors, military leaders, the Parliamentarian of the Senate, a Justice of the Supreme Court, and often, the President of the United States. The program also includes the Annual Senate Reception. In addition, each student receives a one-time $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science.

Many alumni of the program have gone on to serve in a variety of government positions at the state and national level. Numbering more than 6,000, USSYP alumni serve the country in many ways. They have become leaders in government, law, business, education, journalism, the military, medicine, health care, higher education, and many other fields. The commonality to all their successes is the desire to serve.


Meet our
2022-2023 Pennsylvania Awardees

Congratulations to the 2023 Pennsylvania Recipients

Aditi Mangal, Spring-Ford Area HS

Claire Chi, State College Area HS

Photo: Senator Robert Casey with delegates Aditi Mangel and Claire Chi

At her school, Aditi is a student representative on the school board, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, an officer of the debate team, a member of the orchestra ensemble, and a district ambassador. She is an AP Scholar with Distinction and was a Lockheed Martin Cybersecurity Competition Finalist, a Rotary District Speech Competition Finalist, and has received the Gold Presidential Volunteer Award. Outside of school, Aditi is a CSO (Chief Science Officer) through the SciTech Institute, has completed an internship with Pennsylvania State Senator Katie Muth, and is also a second-degree black belt and an assistant instructor at her martial arts school. Aditi has created her own 501(c)3, InstantSmile, that provides tutoring services and during the Covid-19 pandemic, helped collect laptops for students so they could continue their education. She has also volunteered in her community with the Red Cross and other organizations. Aditi plans on majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Philosophy, with the goal of going to law school. She hopes to leave a legacy for other students through participating in the Senate Youth Program.

Claire serves on the Executive Board of the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils (PASC) as one of two student representatives on the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, and is co-director of the Students for Education in Pennsylvania (SEPA) Committee, which helps connect over 100 students across Pennsylvania to education policy makers. At her school, she is President of the Yoga Club, a member of the Leadership Council, Captain for the Public Forum Debate Team, and previously served on the Student Problem Identification & Resolution of Issues Together (School SPIRIT) Program through the US Department of Justice. She has served as a Research Assistant at Utah State University, as an intern with the Smithsonian Institute, and has presented a workshop at the American Anthropological Association. Claire also founded her own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Dancing Against Hunger, combining dance instruction with collecting food donations. She has also taught dance classes and served as a teaching assistant in Algebra for Spanish speaking students. Claire has received the American Association of University Women Merit Scholarship, the Junior Anthropologist Award of the American Anthropological Association, and was a top ten speaker at the National Symposium for Debate Tournament. She hopes to use Anthropology to pursue a path in education and public policy. Her goal is to help eradicate food insecurity for students, a cause she has presented a TEDx Talk on.

You can read more about Aditi and Claire's experience, along with all of the other delegates, at the US Senate Youth Program site

Eligibility and Process

In Pennsylvania, PASC is charged by the Hearst Foundation to administer the program, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). School administrators play an important role in our process, and we invite everyone to review the introductory letter that is sent annually to all high school principals in Pennsylvania. You are also invited to view the national press release as well.

The US Senate Youth Program is strictly merit based and highly competitive. We look to annually select the two best representatives to send as delegates to the program. The chosen delegates are consistently of the highest caliber in the nation.


Any student nominated should be an extremely strong leader with strong communication and interpersonal skills, the initiative to respond to group needs, and a great desire to participate in the American democratic processes in order to improve our nation and serve others. High aspirations and clear examples of self-motivation and creativity define Senate Youth delegates. Keep in mind that public service is the core mission of this program.

In addition to the above, the following are desired qualities in candidates:

· Outstanding leadership and public speaking ability;

· High scholastic standing and demonstrated ability to achieve;

· Strong community and public service involvement and civic engagement;

· Participation in a wide selection of activities on and off campus; 

· Great social skills to participate in a large and dynamic group with relative ease; and

· Interest in America's political processes.

Ultimately, whether outspoken or soft spoken, we are looking to select students who will thrive during the Washington Week experience, and for whom the experience will be both personally meaningful and transformative for their future endeavors in the service of others.


Our past experience has shown us the ideal candidate is one who is truly interested in public service, government and politics, leadership, and history, and one who has a demonstrated desire to serve others in a leadership capacity. We look for students who have experience working with others as part of public and community service activities, and those who have demonstrated a commitment to public policy in general, and often to a specific policy area that is shown in their activities and previous engagement in the school and community.


Simply holding a qualifying office and having received personal accolades is not enough - additional and often extraordinary examples of a student's passion for service and concern for others, and their work to better their schools and communities so that others can prosper are often better indicators of if a student is the right fit for this program.  

The program is open to students irrespective of nationality or national origin, race, color, creed, age, religion, disability, first language, sex, sexual orientation or financial need. 

The following requirements must be adhered to:

1. Citizenship, Residency, and Grade Requirements:

  • The student nominated must be a United States Citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States.

    • Legal permanent resident means the student must be in possession of their I-551 / “green card” at the time of application to be eligible to apply.

  • Students must be full-time residents of Pennsylvania, and at least one of the student's parents must also be a legal resident of Pennsylvania. A student attending a school in Pennsylvania, whose parents or guardians legal residence is outside Pennsylvania, is not eligible.

    • Exceptions to the residency requirement will only be made in the following cases:

      • Students from DoDEA overseas will represent the state(s) of which the parents/guardians are U.S. legal voting residents. Students attending DoD schools in the U.S. or students enrolled through U.S. military bases in local schools must be residing in the state in which their school is located for the entire academic year.

      • Students may reside in a state other than the state in which they attend school if they are enrolled in the only designated public high school available to them in a school district that crosses contiguous state borders through legal interstate agreement. Students in these schools shall make application to the program through the state where the high school is located and shall represent that state if selected.

        • For these purposes, this would mean that an out-of-state student was attending a Pennsylvania High School as that was their designated public high school. ​

  • Students must be in their junior or senior year of high school to apply for the program. Seniors applying must remain enrolled in school until their class graduates in May/June (they may not be graduating early, such as in December/January). ​

2. School Requirements:

  • Pennsylvania public, charter or private high schools may nominate a student. 

    • Students are encouraged to speak to their school principal for more information regarding their school's nomination and selection process.

  • Each school may only nominate one student per year. If more than one student is nominated from a school, none of those students will be considered for the program.

    • Each high school may nominate a student. So if a school district has multiple high schools, each high school in the district may nominate a student. ​
    • Each school determines its own process and procedures for nominating their student. 

  • While each school is free to create and utilize whatever fair, appropriate nomination process they feel is most suitable, we suggest that each principal:

    • Assign one person to coordinate the initiative and serve as a contact person;

      • While the ultimate authority to nominate a student lies with the school principal, some principals delegate that authority to a vice-principal, a head counselor, or other appropriate person.

    • Disseminate information about the program by using all channels of communication;

    • Ask teachers to encourage eligible students to participate;

    • Use a screening process to select a nominee.

      • The Hearst Foundation advises that the selection be based on a demonstration of leadership ability, high scholastic standing, demonstrated ability to achieve, clear speech, logical thought processes, and community involvement with participation in a wide selection of activities on and off campus. Nominees should also have a strong knowledge of, and interest in, government studies and public service.

      • Some schools conduct a selection process including a small committee—e.g., a school site council or school board member, a counselor, and a teacher who may interview potential candidates or oversee a nomination and application process.​

    • Ensure that the nominee meets all eligibility requirements. Schools who nominate ineligible students will forfeit their eligibility to participate in the program that year. ​

    • School principals may also consider watching this video from the New Jersey DOE featuring a former delegate discussing what to look for in nominees.​

3. Qualifying Position Requirement:

  • The student must be serving in an elected or appointed position in a civic based organization in the school or community, demonstrating they are actively representing a constituency in organizations related to student government, education, public affairs and community service. The student must be holding this position for the entirety of the school year. The primary purposes of the qualifying leadership position must be representation of a constituency and service to others.

    • Examples of this include:

      • Serving as a class officer

      • An officer in Student Council/Government/Senate/SGA

      • An officer in an Honor Society (such as National Honor Society, as well as discipline-based Honor Societies such as the National English Honor Society and Social Studies Honor Societies that include service components)

      • JROTC students who hold officer-level leadership positions within their cadet corps (such as Cadet Corps Commanders)

      • A student representative, elected or appointed (appointed by a panel, commission or board) to a local, district, regional or state-level civic, service and/or educational organization approved by the state selection administrator, where the student holds a high-level position of representation to a constituency in a year-round capacity providing service to others.

        • Examples of this include, but are not limited to, a student representative on their school board or town council, an elected or appointed student officer of a regional or statewide organization that is primarily service-based, etc.​ 

        • If a student is seeking eligibility through this route:​

          • The position they hold must be appointed or elected by a board, panel, or commission of people (i.e., more than one person)​

          • The position must be a year-long one focused on service; performing a civic and educational function for the community at-large.

          • The position must be approved by the state selection coordinator. If an applicant applies and their position is not deemed to be acceptable, their application will be disqualified. 

    • Participation or holding an officer position in academic clubs and/or educational competition programs/conferences or organizations designed primarily for the student’s personal development and enrichment DO NOT qualify. Any of the activities mentioned below may be used to support a candidate's overall portrait of leadership BUT MAY NOT be used as the qualifying position of eligibility. Other examples of organizations that DO NOT qualify as acceptable include

      • A member (not officer) of an Honor Society, JROTC, or Student Council/Government/Senate/SGA

      • Attendance or officer position at Boys/Girls Nation or State summer conference

      • A member or leader of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts

      • A Captain or other leader of a sports team

      • A founder or chairperson of a self-created group

      • A participant, captain or officer in Mock Trial, Forensics/Debate Team, Model U.N. or other academic club, mock legislature, conference or competition where the primary engagement is for the individual educational enrichment or benefit.

    • Students who cannot demonstrate holding an officer position in an acceptable organization will not be considered for this program. 

4. Required Dates, Meetings, and activities:

  • The student must be able to travel to Harrisburg on Saturday, November 18, at their own expense. While in Harrisburg, students will participate in the following activities at the State Capitol:

  • The student, if selected for this program, must be able to attend the week in Washington (March 2-9, 2024) in its entirety (transportation and all other expenses paid for by the Hearst Foundation).

    • The Hearst Foundations will pay all expenses for Washington Week including transportation, hotel, and meals. The Department of Defense (DoD) annually provides a team of competitively selected men and women officers to serve as mentors and chaperones for the student delegates, and a registered nurse, licensed physician, and professional security team are always in place throughout the week.  ​

    • More information about the rules and policies of Washington Week can be found at the USSYP Website.

These requirements are set by the Hearst Foundation and cannot be modified or waived. If you have any questions, you are encouraged to contact Pennsylvania US Senate Youth Program Coordinator Dr. Felix Yerace at before applying. 

How to Apply

Below is the link to the application, as well as the application template, instructions for recommenders, principal certification letter and parent/guardian letter.

To submit a complete application, you will need to provide:

  1. The application below, which includes your resume and two essays.

    • The application will also ask you to separately list your "qualifying position" that makes you eligible to apply for this program.​

    • We provide an application template for you so that you can gather all of the information you will need to complete the application at one time, and in approximately 30 minutes. 

  2. Your two letters of recommendation.

    • Make sure your letters come from the correct two individuals.

      • One letter must come from your principal, counselor, or a teacher who has taught you.​

      • The other letter must come from the advisor of the activity that makes you eligible to apply for this program. 

    • We provide instructions for the recommenders and it is critical you share this letter with them directly so they know what to include in your application. ​

  3. The principal certification letter.

    • ​This letter verifies you are the only nominee from your school, that you meet the eligibility requirements for the position, and that your school fully supports your nomination. ​

  4. The parent/guardian form.

    • This ensures that your parent/guardian(s) understands the process and will fully support your candidacy for this program. ​

  5. Your transcript. 

Before you begin:

1. Verify that you are eligible to apply based on the information above.

2. Verify with your principal you are the only nominee from your school.

3. Download the Application Template. It will contain all of the information you need to gather before you start your application using the online form. Your application must be completed in one seating.

4. Download the "Instructions for Recommenders" and give this to your two  recommenders directly.

  • Your principal or counselor or a teacher who has taught you. 

  • Your activity advisor of the qualifying activity. 

Your letter of recommendation is an important part of your application, and this will help the individuals writing your letter know what we are looking for in your letter. 

5. Download the Principal Certification Letter, and have your principal complete the form for submission. 

6. Download the Parent/Guardian letter, and have your parent/guardian(s) sign it. 

7. Complete the application and submit it at the below link by 11:59 PM on Friday, October 6, 2023.

8. Verify that all of your documents are submitted no later than Friday, October 6, 2023. 

Please note that:

  • Late applications will not be considered.

  • Applicants who do not meet all of the stated eligibility requirements listed above will not be considered for the program and will not be contacted regarding their ineligibility.

  • If more than one application from a school is received, none of those applications will be considered.  

  • Incomplete submissions may be disqualified. It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is complete, and you should not expect to receive notification if it is not. 

  • Please do not submit additional materials besides the required elements since they will not be evaluated.

  • If you submit more than one application, we will only evaluate the last one you submit. For this reason we suggest you carefully prepare and review your application prior to submission to ensure you do not need to recomplete the entire application to resubmit it. Editing of an existing application is not allowed.

The 2023 application is now closed. Please talk to your principal in August of 2024 if you are interested in applying for the 2024 award. 

The deadline to apply in 2024 will be early October.

2024 Pennsylvania Finalists and Past Pennsylvania Delegates

2024 Pennsylvania Finalists for the US Senate Youth Program


Taken at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on November 18, 2023


(L-R) Harihar Viswanathan (Shady Side Academy), Anjali Verma (Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School), Hannah Siddiqui (Abington Heights HS), Edan Kauer (Council Rock HS South), Chanith Jayasooriya (Westmont Hilltop Junior-Senior HS), Alex Chen (West Chester East HS), Sophie Fontecchio (Downingtown STEM Academy), Aadya Gattu (Central Bucks HS South), Brady McNamara (Central Columbia HS), Prithvi Narayanan (State College Area HS)

Pennsylvania Honor Roll of US Senate Youth Program Delegates

Pennsylvania honors the over 120 students from over 100 public and private high schools who have represented the Commonwealth in this program. Many of them continue to engage with one another after the program concludes. 

*Student who was enrolled in a Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) School overseas and also considered a resident of Pennsylvania. 

USSYP 2023 Stacked Logo.jpg

More Information

If you have questions, please contact:

Felix Yerace, Ph.D.

Pennsylvania Coordinator

United States Senate Youth Program

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