Two Maine Students Selected for United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP)

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is pleased to announce that Natalie Emmerson, a student at Morse High School, in Bath, and Shawn Jiminez, a student at Gardiner Area High School, in Gardiner, were both selected for the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). They will each be attending USSYP’s Washington Week in Washington, D.C. during the first week of March where they will meet with the Senate leaders and the Senate parliamentarian and historian; a justice of the Supreme Court, the President, officials from the Departments of State and Defense and other executive agencies, a foreign ambassador to the U.S. and senior members of the media. They are also each awarded a $10,000 scholarship to any undergraduate institution of their choosing.

The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) provides a yearly opportunity for two students from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity, to gain an in-depth view of the United States Senate and the federal government as well as a deeper understanding of the interrelationship of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. 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.

The selection process for this prestigious award is rigorous and competitive and began when teachers and principals nominated qualified students this past fall. Once nominated, students had to complete an application and write an essay on a significant issue they would like the U.S. Congress to consider.

Based on the quality of their essay, ten students were selected as finalists. Those 10 students came to The Margaret Chase Smith library in Skowhegan where they were interviewed by a distinguished panel of judges including Chuck Mahaleris, Constituent Services Representative for Senator Susan Collins; and Ben Tucker, Regional Representative for Senator Angus S. King, Jr. Additionally, they were asked to write and deliver a four-minute senate simulation speech. At the end of the day, both Emmerson and Jiminez rose to the top.

Photos from the event:

Natalie Emmerson serves as the Student School Board Representative, president/co-founder of Morse’s Women’s Empowerment Club, a member of National Honors Society and Maine People’s Alliance, and a former member of the Feminist Action Board (Hardy Girls Healthy Women). She’s accumulated 206 volunteer hours since freshman year through swimming, climbing, the Teen Library Council, and more. She’s received AP Scholar With Distinction, AP Capstone Certificate, Phi-Beta-Kappa Certificate of Recognition, Harvard Book Award, Language Certificate in French from UMA, and the Seal of Biliteracy in French. This summer she won delegate of the week for her town at Dirigo State and attended the Cohen Leadership Institute. She also swims competitively.

Shawn Jiminez has earned several leadership positions throughout his high school years, including secretary of the Gardiner ukulele club, secretary of the Gardiner debate team, and vice-president for the Gardiner band board. He was parliamentarian of the Maine Junior Classical League, Gardiner’s varsity tennis co-captain, and president of the Interact Club, the Drama Club, and the Maine Junior Classical League.

This year’s USSYP alternates are Ryan Hafener of Hampden Academy and Carolyne Sauda of Bangor High School. To learn more about the program, visit: