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2020 U.S. Senate Youth Program FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions for the 2020 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 $10,000 college scholarship and attend a one-week all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., from March 7–14, 2020.

What are the Eligibility Requirements?
  • Student must be nominated by his or her high school principal to be considered for the USSYP.
  • Principal may nominate up to two students from the high school.
  • Nominated student must be a high school junior or senior currently serving in an elected or appointed leadership position in a student government, civic, or educational organization for the entire 2019–20 school year.*
  • Student must be actively serving and representing his or her peers in qualified leadership positions in organizations that relate to government, education, public affairs, and/or community service.
  • A nominated student must be a legal permanent resident of the United States, currently enrolled in a California public or private secondary school, and living in the state he or she will represent for the entire 2019–2020 academic year at the time of application.
* The student is required to be actively serving in an elected or appointed leadership position in any one of the following student government, civic, or educational organizations during the entire 2019–2020 school year:
  1. Student Body President, Vice President, Secretary, or Treasurer
  2. Class President, Vice President, Secretary, or Treasurer
  3. Student Council Representative
  4. National Honor Society Officer
  5. 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.
Participation or holding an officer position in academic clubs and/or educational competition programs or conferences do not qualify a student for the USSYP although many students who qualify participate in such. The positions listed below do NOT qualify the student for the program:
  • Attendance or officer position at Boys or Girls Nation or State Conference
  • Member of the National Honor Society (serving as an elected officer for the organization for the entire school year is acceptable)
  • Member or leader of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or JROTC
  • A founder or chairperson of a self-created group
  • A participant, captain or officer in Mock Trial, Debate Team, Model U.N. or other academic club, conference, or competition where the primary engagement is for individual educational enrichment.

For additional information regarding the program rules, please review the 2020 USSYP brochure on the William Randolph Hearst Foundation USSYP website 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 2019. The notification letter is posted on the CDE USSYP web page.

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 Parts A and B of the application and exam. Part A is a form that requires student and parent guardian information, a copy of an unofficial student transcript, signatures, and two letters of recommendation. The California Qualifying Application and Examination Part B must be completed online.

What is the deadline for the application packet?

Part A of the application must be mailed and has a postmark deadline of Friday, October 4, 2019.

Part B of the online application and exam must be submitted by Friday, October 4, 2019, at 4 p.m.

Late applications will not be considered and application packets received by fax or e-mail will not be accepted.

Where do I send Part A of the application packet?

Mail Part A of the application packet which consists of unofficial transcripts, a signature page, and two letters of recommendation to:

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

How are California’s student delegates and alternates selected?

A selection committee reviews eligible student applications that are completed and submitted by the deadline. From the top competitors, the committee makes recommendations to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) or his designee for the final selection.
The delegates and alternates are announced in early December 2019. Selection is based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated qualities of leadership by currently serving in an elected or appointed leadership position 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 appointed/selected by a panel, commission, or board to a school, district, regional, or state-level civic or educational organization for the entire 2019–20 school year.
  • High academic achievement.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and verbal skills (public speaking).
  • Knowledge of American government and U.S. history.
  • Involvement in school and community activities.
  • 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.

NOTE: Video interviews may be conducted during the week of November 25, 2019. Finalists will be contacted directly if selected for an interview.

What recognition do students receive at the state level?

Selection to represent California in the USSYP is a high honor. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction will host the delegates and alternates at the California State Board of Education (SBE) meeting in Sacramento scheduled for January 8–9, 2020,** 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?

Dina Fong, U.S. Senate Youth Program Coordinator
E-mail: ussyp@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0551

David Carriker, U.S. Senate Youth Program Assistant
E-mail: ussyp@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0173

** Subject to change. Date will be confirmed after delegates are named.

Questions:   USSYP | ussyp@cde.ca.gov |
Last Reviewed: Friday, August 23, 2019
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