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2016 United States Senate Youth Program

California frequently asked questions for the 2016 U.S. Senate Youth Program.
What is the United States Senate Youth Program?

The California Department of Education (CDE) administers the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), which is an annual scholarship competition funded by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and endorsed by the United States Senate. Each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia select two high school juniors or seniors to participate in the USSYP. The delegates receive a $5,000 college scholarship and attend a one-week all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., from March 5–12, 2016.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Students must be nominated by their high school principal to be considered for the USSYP. Principals may nominate up to two students from their high school. Nominated students must be high school juniors or seniors currently serving in an elected or appointed leadership capacity in a student government, civic, or educational organization for the 2015–16 school year. Additionally, nominated students must be a permanent resident of the United States and currently enrolled in a California public or private secondary school.

For additional information regarding the program rules, please review the USSYP 2016 brochure on the William Randolph Hearst Foundation USSYP Web site External link opens in new window or tab..

How does the principal select the school’s nominees?

Principals can take sole responsibility for the selection of the student nominees. Some principals delegate that authority to a vice-principal, a head counselor, or other appropriate person. Others 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.

When will the notification letter be sent to high school principals?

The USSYP notification letter is sent to the attention of high school principals, counselors, and scholarship coordinators in August 2015. The notification letter along with the California Student Application and California Qualifying Examination is posted on the CDE USSYP Web page. A hard copy is available upon request.

How do I apply for the USSYP?

Students cannot apply directly for the USSYP. They must be nominated to participate in the USSYP by their principal. Once they have been nominated for the USSYP, students must complete the California Student Application and California Qualifying Examination and mail it to the CDE with a copy of an unofficial student transcript.

What is the postmark deadline for the application packet?

The postmark deadline for the mailing envelope is Thursday, October 1, 2015. Late applications will not be considered. Application packets received by fax or e-mail will not be accepted.

Where do I send the application packet?

Send the original and one copy of the completed California Student Application, California Qualifying Examination, and unofficial student transcript to:

David Carriker, United States Senate Youth Program
California Department of Education
Executive Office
1430 N Street, Suite 5602
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

How are California’s student delegates and alternates selected?

A selection committee will review eligible nominees who have submitted the completed application packet by the October 1, 2015, postmark deadline. From the top competitors, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) Tom Torlakson will make the final selection of two finalists and a first and second alternate to represent California. The delegates and alternates will be announced in early December 2015. Selection is based on the following criteria:

  • The quality of the application, including the ability to write with clarity, express ideas in an organized and original fashion; and the use of correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • High academic achievement
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to speak well
  • Knowledge of American government and U.S. history
  • Involvement in school and community activities
  • Demonstrated qualities of leadership by currently serving in an elected capacity in student government such as student body president, vice president, secretary or treasurer; class president, vice-president, secretary or treasurer; student council representative; or as a student representative elected or approved (approved by a panel, commission, or board) to a school, district, regional, or state-level civic or educational organization for the 2015–16 school year.
What recognition do students receive at the state level?

Selection to represent California in the USSYP is a high honor. SSPI Tom Torlakson will host the delegates and alternates at the California State Board of Education (SBE) meeting in Sacramento scheduled for January 13–14, 2016, where they will be recognized for their outstanding achievement.

Special honors for a student’s participation in the USSYP should also take place at the local level. Outstanding achievement of this kind does not always receive the level of recognition commonly given to other pursuits. We encourage high school administrators to take the opportunity of the USSYP to honor the student(s) who represents the best in leadership and citizenship at their school.

Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

If you have any questions regarding the USSYP, please contact David Carriker, Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, by phone at 916-319-0173 or by e-mail at

Questions:   David Carriker| | 916-319-0173
Last Reviewed: Thursday, August 6, 2015
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