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by Mark Cheffey
A Palmyra High School student was one of two chosen to represent Missouri in Washington, D.C. as part of the United States Senate Youth Program.
Timothy Wellman, a senior at PHS, will join U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley during the 60th annual USSYP Washington Week, March 6-9.
Wellman and Pranav Palaniappan, a Fort Zumwalt West junior from O’Fallon, were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation who will each also receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study.
However, due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2022 program will be held online through a comprehensive and highly interactive virtual education and leadership forum.
“To be honest, I was shocked,” Wellman said of his selection, which, more or less came out of the blue.
“I had done research on the number of high schools in the state, just out of amusement, and saw that if everyone who was eligible applied, I would be competing with up to 950 other candidates.”
But then he was invited to interview in Jefferson City as a semi-finalist.
“That itself was unbelievable,” Wellman said. “I remember trying to rehearse possible questions in my head and trying to just mentally prepare myself before the day came.”
Even receiving word of his selection provided an extra surprise aspect in that it came in via email and he was not aware of it immediately.
“It had been sent to a folder which doesn’t provide me with alerts, so it had just been sitting there for a couple days without me even knowing,” Wellman said. “Even still, when I found out, I was just beyond excited and so proud to be able to represent my state on a national level.”
Besides the welcome scholarship money, Wellman means much to him personally.
“As someone who aspires to go into political science, this is the first major step to me being able to witness what actually goes on in our government,” Wellman said. “I’ll be able to talk with senators, Supreme Court justices, and cabinet officials, as well as perhaps the president himself, and discuss current issues of the day.
“I truly hope I can assist with real change and have an awesome, eye-opening experience as well.”
Wellman is disappointed the event will be held virtually instead of in person.
“When I first found out about the program, I had seen so many photos of it in D.C. and had been looking forward, optimistically of course, to being able to travel there and see all of this stuff in person,” Wellman said. “I happened to look back at the website one day and saw that it had been moved virtual, and I’ll admit, it was pretty unfortunate.
“Even still, I think it should be a good time, and I look forward to meeting my fellow delegates, virtual or otherwise.”
Wellman has already outlined some goals he hopes to accomplish as a delegate.
“I’d like to raise awareness for education,” he said. “As a high schooler, much of what I know has been through the school system which, despite the successes it has, is still pretty flawed.
“It’s not one of the biggest priorities in government, so if we could better refine the process by which the leaders of tomorrow are developed, I think it would be beneficial for everyone.”
Wellman serves as president of the PHS senior class.
He also serves in many leadership roles in his school and community.
He is active in many extracurriculars, such as Student Council, where he is treasurer, FFA, in which he serves as chapter vice president, Scholar Bowl, where he holds the varsity captaincy, and Science Olympiad.
Wellman is a peer tutor in the gifted education program and participated in the Harvard Foreign Policy Scholars Program in the summer of 2021.
Additionally, he was a part of the team that won the National Floriculture Competition through the FFA in October, placing fourth in the nation individually.
The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 and has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations since inception.
Originally proposed by Senators Kuchel, Mansfield, Dirksen and Humphrey, the Senate leadership of the day, the impetus for the program as stated in Senate testimony 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.”
Each year this competitive merit-based program provides the most outstanding high school students – two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity – with 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 provide each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs.
All expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in S.Res.324, no government funds are utilized.
Chosen as alternates to the 2022 program were Emma Claire Voelker, a resident of Frohna, who attends Saxony Lutheran High School and Lucy Katherine Schene, a resident of Kirkwood, who attends Kirkwood High School.
Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity, after nomination by teachers and principals.
The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s Missouri delegates and alternates were designated by Margaret M. Vandeven, commissioner of education.
During the program week, the student delegates will attend online meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, among others.
In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top 1 percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors.