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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #19-82
December 6, 2019
Contact: Dina Fong
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces California High School Students for the 2020 U.S. Senate Youth Program

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today announced two outstanding high school students to represent California in the 58th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Violet Wang of Petaluma (Sonoma County), a senior at Casa Grande High School in the Petaluma City Joint Union High School District, and Arushi Avachat of Pleasanton (Alameda County), a senior at Foothill High School in the Pleasanton Unified School District, were selected for this highly competitive program for their remarkable leadership qualities, scholastic achievement, and strong commitment to their schools and communities.

“These students have demonstrated exceptional leadership. I am impressed and inspired by what they have already accomplished in their young lives,” Thurmond said. “They have a strong passion for public service and activism and desire to make a difference in the lives of others. I am confident that they will make the most of this opportunity, continuing to make positive contributions, and be excellent representatives for California.”

Thurmond also named two alternates in the event that one or both of the delegates are unable to attend. The first alternate is Olivia Brooke Sally of Castro Valley (Alameda County), a senior at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland. The second alternate is Nathan Viotti of Menlo Park (San Mateo County), a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Sequoia Union High School District.

The delegates and alternates are scheduled to be recognized by the State Board of Education during its January 8–9, 2020, meeting in Sacramento.

Students must be nominated by their high school principal to participate in the program. To qualify for the program, high school juniors or seniors must be actively serving in an elected or appointed leadership position in which they are representing a constituency in organizations related to student government, education, public affairs, and/or community service as well as express an interest in pursuing a career in public service.

A selection committee from the California Department of Education (CDE) reviews eligible nominees, and the awardees are selected based on the quality of their application, demonstrated leadership abilities, academic achievement, involvement in school and community activities, extracurricular activities, 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 interrelationship of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, according to the national USSYP website External link opens in new window or tab.. The program provides a foundation of knowledge and encouragement for those considering a future in public service on the local, state, or national level.

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 7–14, 2020.

For more information, please visit the CDE USSYP web page.

The following are synopses compiled from their applications:

Violet Wang — Delegate

Sonoma County

Violet Wang is a senior at Casa Grande High School in the Petaluma City Schools District and currently serves as the co-chair of the Petaluma Regional Library Advisory Board. She is a seasoned journalist in both her school and local paper with experience as a broadcast anchor and print reporter. She is also co-captain of the Academic Decathlon team and co-captain of the Varsity Girls Swim Team. She is heavily involved with her community and serves as lead commissioner of the Petaluma Youth Arts Council, and also volunteers at Petaluma City Schools and Petaluma Valley Hospital. She hopes to study history and public policy on an Army ROTC scholarship as well as serve her country as an Army officer. A strong social and political advocate, Violet wants to go to law school after active duty and hopes to either run for Congress or become a judge.

Arushi Avachat — Delegate

Alameda County

Arushi Avachat is a senior at Foothill High School in the Pleasanton Unified School District. She serves as vice-chair of the Pleasanton City Youth Commission. She is a founder and president of the Foothill Writers Group, a creative writing critique group at her school. She is also involved with speech and debate, yearbook, and choir. She is co-founder and co-president of Students for Social Change, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to youth activism and has interned for Alameda County Superior Court. She plans to major in English and political science and desires a future in activism and public service. In particular, she would like to pursue a legal career with a non-profit like the ACLU and continue her writing.

Olivia Brooke Sally — First Alternate

Castro Valley
Alameda County

Olivia Brooke Sally is a senior at Bishop O’ Dowd High School in Oakland and is a student council representative and student body philanthropy chair. She is the president and founder of Dragon Democracy, the largest club of O’Dowd’s history, representing 38% of the student body. She is match captain of the Varsity Women’s Rugby Team and viola chair in the string orchestra. A National Merit Commended Scholar, she volunteers as a special needs elementary music teacher as well as interned on various local, statewide, congressional, and presidential campaigns. Olivia hopes to double major in public policy and political science followed by either a law degree or masters in public policy. After that, she wants to serve her home state of California and contribute to her greater community.

Nathan Viotti — Second Alternate

Menlo Park
San Mateo County

Nathan Viotti is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Sequoia Union High School District. He serves as the Northern California Director of the California High School Democrats, the official high school wing of the Democratic Party in California. He is editor-in-chief of his school’s newspaper and magazine and founder and president of the Menlo-Atherton Model United Nations. He is a student representative for the 18th Congressional District Student Advisory Board, mentors local exchange students through the American Field Service, and has interned for Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization. A National Merit semifinalist and AP scholar with Distinction, Nathan intends to study either political science or international relations while continuing his study of French, Arabic, and Spanish. He would like to attain a master’s in public policy or get a law degree followed by a career as a diplomat or civil rights lawyer or as a policymaker within the Legislative Branch.

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 15, 2023
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