December 13, 2017
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces California High School Students to the 2018 U.S. Senate Youth Program
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today named two outstanding high school students to represent California in the 56th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.
Mackenzie Hawkins of Pleasanton (Alameda County), a senior at Amador Valley High School in the Pleasanton Unified School District, and Cole McCann-Phillips of Berkeley (Alameda County), a senior at Berkeley High School in the Berkeley Unified School District, were selected for their outstanding leadership qualities, scholastic achievement, and contributions to their schools and communities.
“I applaud these amazing students who have demonstrated remarkable leadership skills and serve their schools and communities with passion,” Torlakson said. “They will represent California well during Washington Week and I know they will achieve great things due to their commitment to public service and their desire to make this world a better place. They make me optimistic for our future.”
Torlakson also selected two alternates in the event that one or both of the delegates are unable to attend. The first alternate is Olivia Fu of El Dorado Hills (El Dorado County), a senior at St. Francis Catholic School in Sacramento. The second alternate is Steven Pineda of Los Angeles (Los Angeles County), a senior at University High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The delegates and alternates are scheduled to be recognized by the State Board of Education during its January 18–19, 2018, meeting in Sacramento.
To qualify for the program, high school juniors or seniors must be currently serving in an elected or appointed leadership capacity in a student government, civic or educational organization and express an interest in pursuing a career in public service. They are then nominated by their high school principal.
A selection committee from the California Department of Education (CDE) reviews eligible nominees, and Torlakson selects the awardees based on the quality of the application, demonstrated qualities of leadership, academic achievement, involvement in school and community activities, extracurricular activities, interpersonal and communication skills, knowledge of American government and history, and commitment to public service.
The USSYP provides 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 legislative, judicial and executive branches, according to their national website . The program provides a foundation of knowledge and encouragement for those considering a future of public service.
Two student leaders from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity each receive a $10,000 scholarship and attend a one-week all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. from March 3–10, 2018.
For more information, please visit the CDE’s United States Senate Youth Program web page.The following are synopses compiled from their applications:
Mackenzie Hawkins of Pleasanton (Alameda County), is a senior at Amador Valley Senior High School in the Pleasanton Unified School District. She currently serves as Associated Student Body Vice President as well as Delegation President for Youth & Government. She contributes to her community by tutoring low-income elementary school students, teaching children and adults with special needs how to swim, and serving as a Spanish-English translator for families shopping at Kohl’s Department Store. She also has a small hairstyling business and designs original clothing. She hopes to attend Stanford University and major in political science and international relations and either get a law degree or master’s degree in political science. She would like to work in the State Department or the United Nations and someday run for public office.
Cole McCann-Phillips of Berkeley (Alameda County), is a senior at Berkeley High School in the Berkeley Unified School District. He serves as a Governmental Affairs Policy Director for the California Association of Student Councils (CSAC), sits on the Berkeley High School Site Council, and Student Senate. As President of his school’s speech and debate team, he has helped improved the team’s ranking from 71st to 14th in the nation. His extracurricular activities include Student Advisor to the California State Legislature; Student Advisor to the State Board of Education in 2016, and intern for the Tony Thurmond for State Superintendent of Public Instruction campaign. He hopes to attend Brown University, majoring in political science and public policy followed by law school and a career as a federal prosecutor. But he says no matter what his career path, his future shall include social and political advocacy.
Olivia Fu of El Dorado Hills (El Dorado County), is a senior at St. Francis Catholic High School in Sacramento and is active in numerous organizations. She serves as Lieutenant Governor for Key Club International, Division 7 North, where she leads members in volunteering and fundraising for charities; and has been an intern for Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. She is the founder and chapter president of the Girl Up Club through the United Nations Foundation which is dedicated to empowering girls and raising awareness on gender issues. In addition, she has coached middle school students in debate and public speaking and tutors peers in French, English, math, and science. She wants to study international relations with a minor in economics, get a master’s degree overseas, and attend law school, ultimately becoming a U.S. ambassador.
Steven Pineda of Los Angeles (Los Angeles County), is a senior at University High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He serves as Student Body President where he promotes campus unity between various student groups on campus and created an initiative to increase the number of minorities in AP courses through weekly seminars. He founded a Black Lives Matter chapter on campus and Bridge the Gap, which introduces underclassmen to the college admissions process and financial aid resources. His community activities include being on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council for Los Angeles Unified and the Los Angeles Mayor’s Youth Council. He was also a finalist for the Student Member position for the California State Board of Education. He plans to apply to Stanford University and become a civil rights lawyer and focus on immigration and workplace discrimination issues. As a first generation, inner city student, he wants to give back by working as a community organizer in the south side of Los Angeles.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100