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  Knoxville student selected for United States Senate Youth Program

KNOXVILLE -- Delegates to the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) have been chosen, and one of those is Justin Cross of Knoxville. Cross is one of two students chosen across the state to be part of the group of 104 student delegates who will attend the program’s 54th annual Washington Week from March 5-12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. according to an announcement made today by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker today.

The motivation for the program is “to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, learn the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and emphasize the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.”

This is an extremely competitive merit-based program which includes an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundations, which fully funds the USSYP, provide each student with a $5,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; no government funds are utilized. The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962.

Justin Cross attends the L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville and serves as the Student Body president. He holds leadership positions in 4-H at the county, regional, and state levels and serves as the 2015-2016 Tennessee 4-H State Council president. As a leader, Justin always strives to give back to his community and school, and he is an active volunteer through several clubs and organizations. Justin speaks to educate citizens about the importance of Tennessee agriculture in support of the Governor’s Rural Challenge.

Claire Barnett was the other student chosen from Tennessee. Barnett attends Rossview High School in Clarksville and serves as the Student Body president. She is the 3 year editor-in chief of her school yearbook, the Kentucky-Tennessee Key Club governor and president of her school's National Honor Society. She has a career goal of political communications and has a passion for public service, reflected in her involvement in a local youth leadership program, a city council, and a county committee. Claire is also a National Merit semifinalist.

Chosen as alternates to the 2016 program were Taylor Savell, a resident of Mt. Juliet, who attends Mt. Juliet High School and Tucker Scott, a resident of Knoxville, who attends Farragut High School.

The chief educational officer in each state selects the delegates after nomination by teachers and principals. This year’s delegates were designated by Ms. Candice McQueen, Commissioner of Education.

While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with Senators, House Representatives and Congressional staff, the President, a Justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an Ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media. The students will also tour many of the national monuments and several museums and they will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

In addition to exceptional leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates generally rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 5,000 strong, alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities that are often directed toward public service. Among the many distinguished alumni are: Senator Susan Collins, the first alumna to be elected U.S. Senator; Senator Cory Gardner, the second alumnus to be elected U.S. Senator and the first to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first alumnus to be elected governor; former Chief Judge Robert Henry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, and former presidential advisors Thomas "Mack" McLarty and Karl Rove. Additional notables include former Lt. Governor of Idaho David Leroy, former president of the Progressive Policy Institute Robert Shapiro, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, healthcare providers and university educators.

Members of the USSYP 2016 54th annual Senate Advisory Committee are: Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, Republican Co-Chair; Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, Democratic Co-Chair; Senate Advisory Members: Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), David Perdue (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT). Each year, the Honorary Co- Chairs of the program are the Vice President of the United States and the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders.

Published January 16, 2016

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