Students Headed to Washington, D. C. and to Receive $5,000 Scholarship
January, 2016, Washington, D.C. — Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse today announced the names of the two students who have been selected as delegates to the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) that will be held March 5 – 12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. Keith Jillette of Woonsocket and Zachary Johnson of East Greenwich were chosen from across the state to be part of the group of 104 student delegates who will attend the program’s 54th annual Washington Week.
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 104 of 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 $5,000 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.
Keith Jillette attends Woonsocket High School and serves as a Student Council representative. He is an outstanding student who enjoys student activism through his leadership role with the student council and as a member of Congressman David Cicilline’s 2015 Youth Cabinet, where he and fellow students contributed policy ideas from a student’s point of view to the Congressman. He is an avid runner and serves as the cross country and indoor/outdoor track captain. He is extremely passionate about politics and aspires to earn his political science degree and further his studies in law school.
Zachary Johnson attends East Greenwich High School and serves as president of the
Class of 2016. He is a superb student with outstanding leadership skills. He serves as the
captain of the Debate team, Mock Trial team, LifeSmarts team, and varsity tennis team. He
helped to pass Rhode Island’s first financial literacy standards. Zachary has a deep interest in
politics, and aspires to earn his degree in political science and one day run for office.
Chosen as alternates to the 2016 program were Maura Goss, a resident of Portsmouth,
who attends Portsmouth High School and Nicholas Guarino, a resident of Riverside, who
attends East Providence High School.
The chief educational officer in each state selects the delegates after nomination
by teachers and principals. This year’s delegates were designated by Dr. Ken Wagner,
Commissioner of Education.
While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with Senators,
House Representatives and 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 exceptional leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer
work, the student delegates generally rank academically in the top one percent of their states
among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 5,000 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 alumna 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; 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, former president of the Progressive Policy Institute
Robert Shapiro, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top
congressional staff, healthcare providers and university educators.
Members of the USSYP 2016 54th annual Senate Advisory Committee are:
Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, Republican Co-Chair; Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii,
Democratic Co-Chair; Senate Advisory Members: Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV),
Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), David Perdue (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory
Booker (D-NJ), Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT). Each year, the Honorary Co-
Chairs of the program are the Vice President of the United States and the Senate Majority and