February 16, 2021
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces California High School Students for the 2021 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 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.
Jamaal Willis of Barstow (San Bernardino County), a senior at Barstow High School in the Barstow Unified School District, and Sathvik Nori of Atherton (San Mateo County), a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Sequoia Union High School District, were selected for their exceptional leadership skills, remarkable commitment to their schools and communities, and scholastic achievement as California’s delegates in this highly competitive program.
“I could not be prouder to recognize these students for this honor. These young scholars will represent our state on a national stage, and I’m confident they will one day rise to leadership positions that help advance the dreams, aspirations, and ambitions of Californians for years to come,” Thurmond said. “I am impressed and inspired by their strong leadership and passion. From advocating for racial equity and civil rights to working on mental health awareness and increasing civic engagement among their peers, these students desire to empower the disadvantaged and improve the lives of others, which fills me with great optimism for our future.”
Thurmond also named two alternates in the event that one or both of the delegates are unable to attend the program. The first alternate is Emma Barrosa of Glendora (Los Angeles County), a senior at Glendora High School in Glendora Unified. The second alternate is Michael Zhao of San Jose (Santa Clara County), a senior at Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Union High School District.
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 . 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 will participate this year in Washington Week Online, an interactive experience, from March 14–18, 2021.
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.
For more information, please visit the CDE’s United States Senate Youth Program web page.
The following are synopses compiled from their applications:
Jamaal Willis is a senior at Barstow High School in the Barstow Unified School District and currently serves as Student Body President. A former shy introvert, he is Captain of the Mock Trial and Speech and Debate teams, Captain of the Track and Field teams, and Captain/founder of the Boys’ Volleyball Team. He has volunteered many community service hours with Assemblymember Mike Gipson’s office, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, and the Safe Youth Coalition working on racial equity, civil rights, and homeless issues. He was named a Yale Young Global Scholar and the inaugural QuestBridge National College Match Finalist from the High Desert. He has a passion for social justice and desires to protect the rights of others. As a first-generation college student, he plans to double-major in political science and international politics, pursue a career as a civil rights or criminal attorney, and work as a diplomat and run for office in the future.
Sathvik Nori is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Sequoia Union High School District and serves as the only high school student and youngest Commissioner on the San Mateo Juvenile Justice Commission. In addition, he is actively engaged in his school and community as a Student Trustee for the school board, President of the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, Chair of the San Mateo Youth Commission, and Editor-in-Chief for his school’s newspaper. A nationally ranked debater and Captain of the school Debate Team, he advocates for teen awareness and equity issues for diverse groups to be well-represented in politics. He has received international honors: Sathvik was selected as one out of 10 student leaders from over 1,000 candidates to participate in an Iraqi-Youth Exchange Program to expand civic engagement and intercultural communication. He hopes to explore majors in public policy or political science followed by a graduate degree in law to focus on progressive justice reforms.
Emma Barrosa is a senior at Glendora High School in the Glendora Unified School District. She is active with the California YMCA Youth and Government Program, serving as one of four student board members and responsible for the fiscal and policy decisions of the organization. She is the co-founder and Vice President of her school’s Girls Build LA team, which focuses on improving mental health and school sustainability through wellness support. Her academic achievements include being recognized as a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar as one of the nation’s top 400 Latino rising high school seniors for the class of 2021, a National AP Scholar, and a College Board National Hispanic Scholar. Emma has been early accepted into Stanford University and plans to pursue political science followed by a law degree. She has a passion for policy and wants to work for the State Department and someday run for office to empower disadvantaged communities.
Michael Zhao is a senior at Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Union High School District and serves as Student Body President. Described as humble with an incredible work ethic and desire to help those less fortunate, he is active in his community and school as Chair of the Santa Clara Valley Water District Youth Commission, which raises awareness of water and conservation issues; founder and President of his school’s Science Olympiad Club; a National Officer and Parliamentarian with the Future Business Leaders of America; and a National Liaison and Student Fundraising Coordinator for the March of Dimes. As a volunteer with Asian Pacific-Islander American Public Affairs, he has organized voter registration drives for students as well as the local Asian/Pacific Islander community. A National Merit Semifinalist and National AP Scholar, Michael plans to study government and biology, pursuing a career in public service, and would like to run for Congress to lead and fight for equitable healthcare policies.
# # # #
Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100