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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #21-97
December 1, 2021
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces California High School Students for the 2022 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 60th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), which is sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Joleen Bakalova of Loma Linda (San Bernardino County), a junior at Citrus Valley High School in the Redlands Unified School District, and Sneha Revanur of San Jose (Santa Clara County), a senior at Evergreen Valley High School in the East Side Union High School District, were selected for their extraordinary leadership skills, significant commitments to their schools and communities, and academic and extracurricular achievements as California’s delegates in this highly competitive program.

“I am amazed at what these incredible students have accomplished already in their young lives in their schools and communities and know they will represent California well in this program,” Thurmond said. “I am impressed and inspired by their strong leadership, passion, and commitment to making positive change and doing good in this world. Their advocacy work on issues such as mental health awareness, civic engagement, civil rights, social justice, equity, and desire to improve the lives of those who are disadvantaged gives me confidence that our future is in good hands.”

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 Zachary Patterson of San Diego (San Diego County), a senior at University City High School in San Diego Unified School District. The second alternate is Jaden Stewart of Valley Village (Los Angeles County), a senior at North Hollywood Senior High School Highly Gifted Magnet in the Los Angeles Unified 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 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 will participate in Washington Week Online, an interactive experience, from March 5–10, 2022.

Students must be nominated by their high school principals 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 United States Senate Youth Program web page.

The following are synopses compiled from their applications:

Joleen Bakalova—Delegate

Loma Linda
San Bernardino County

Joleen Bakalova is a junior at Citrus Valley High School in the Redlands Unified School District and currently serves as Chair of the California High School Democrats, where she is the highest-ranking high school student and the youngest statewide leader in the California Democratic Party. She has interned for UN Women and Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Reyes and is also president of her school’s award-winning Vocal Department and member of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. She was one of 24 high school students selected worldwide to participate in Columbia University’s Social Science Summer Program, where she conducted cross-cultural research on adolescents’ views of government surveillance in China and the U.S. Joleen desires to improve lives for disadvantaged families in different areas of the world with an emphasis on girls’ education. She plans to major in global affairs and public international law, learn a security language like Arabic, and someday work for the foreign service in the State Department.

Sneha Revanur—Delegate

San Jose
Santa Clara County

Sneha Revanur is a senior at Evergreen Valley High School in the East Side Union High School District and serves as a student member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education Youth Advisory Group Core Advocacy Team, where she represents her peers in mental health-related policymaking discussions. She is the founder and President of Encode Justice, a youth-led organization mobilizing 300-plus students in 25 countries for human rights in the age of artificial intelligence, and a criminal justice lead of the High School Democrats of America’s National Issue Advocacy Committee. She is one of only two high school students with the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School’s Justice Initiative, a partnership between Harvard and Howard to elevate social justice in legal education. Her awards include the Princeton Prize in Race Relations and an American Voices Medal nomination from Scholastic. Sneha plans to pursue political science in college followed by law school with a desire to create a branch of civil rights litigation dedicated to redressing algorithm-driven discrimination and eventually running for office focusing on a platform that empowers the working class and advances racial, social, and economic justice.

Zachary Patterson—First Alternate

San Diego
San Diego County

Zachary Patterson is a senior at University City High School in the San Diego Unified School District and serves as the very first student member of the San Diego Unified School Board, a position he helped advocate for the student voice and has held for two years. He is the founder and President of the California Student Board Member Association, which brings together and provides training to elected student school board members; the first student member on the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs; founder and member of his school’s Principal Advisory Council; and a student member on the Chief Justice’s Power of Democracy Steering Committee. Honors include being a finalist for the California State Student Board Member position and a runner-up for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. A passionate advocate who desires to make change, Zachary plans to major in political science with a focus on education policy and research. He desires to become an education policy leader and study underlying disparities in an effort to improve educational outcomes and close the opportunity gap.

Jaden Stewart—Second Alternate

Valley Village
Los Angeles County

Jaden Stewart is a senior at North Hollywood Senior High School Highly Gifted Magnet in the Los Angeles Unified School District and is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, where he serves as Civic Engagement Committee Chair, taking the lead to introduce and implement the California State Seal of Civic Engagement within the district. He is also the captain of his school’s speech and debate team, a Model United Nations delegate/mentor, and a first chair tenor saxophonist and part of the Herbie Hancock Jazz in the Classroom Combo. A top three finalist for the California State Board of Education Student Board Member position and a runner-up for the LAUSD Student Board Member position, Jaden plans to pursue a double major in political science and public policy with possible minors in history or rhetoric followed by law school. His career goals include constitutional or civil rights law, focusing on public service and improving international policy and cooperation in order to leave a strong and lasting impact.

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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, December 27, 2023
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