Saturday, July 20, 2024

Get Schooled: Jamestown High Student Selected for Senate Youth Program

Get Schooled IanJamestown High senior Caleb Visser will miss a week of class in March, but he’s not taking a vacation.

Visser was selected as one of two representatives from Virginia for the 53rd annual U.S. Senate Youth Program in Washington, D.C. He will join 103 high school students from across the country to learn about American history, politics and policymaking.

The program is highly selective, accepting two students from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Visser said he discovered the program more or less by accident.

“I was doing research on programs, because there aren’t necessarily a lot of opportunities for high school students interested in public policy or government,” Visser said. “There are a lot for STEM, for example, but not as much for something like leadership.”

The program caught Visser’s attention. He told his English teacher, Ann Shaver, who encouraged him to apply.

The application process was lengthy and involved multiple steps. To be eligible, applicants had to hold a position in their school’s student government. As president of Jamestown’s student council, Visser met this prerequisite.

Students then had to be nominated by their high schools as candidates for the program. Visser and Shaver spoke with Jamestown principal Cathy Worley, who agreed to nominate his application.

Caleb Visser (left) displays his acceptance letter for the U.S. Senate Youth Program with Jamestown High principal Cathy Worley. (Courtsey Williamsburg-James City County Schools)
Caleb Visser (left) displays his acceptance letter for the U.S. Senate Youth Program with Jamestown High principal Cathy Worley. (Courtsey Williamsburg-James City County Schools)

The only remaining step was the application itself, but it was not a small task. The first part was seven pages long, including his list of extracurricular activities and volunteer work – 27 clubs and organizations – and an essay outlining his college and career goals.

Visser’s application took him to the second round of the process – an examination covering American history, the constitution, current and historical politics, true-false questions, multiple choice questions and an essay, all while completing his regular school work and filling out college applications.

“I started it in October, but it stretched into December,” he said.

Then the wait began. Visser said he heard nothing for several days after completing the process. He did not have high hopes.

“None of us expected Caleb from Williamsburg to get it,” he said.

On the way home from school Dec. 9, he received an email from Shaver that said she had good news. Visser drove back to Jamestown and learned he had been selected for the program.

“When I got back home, I found a big packet [from the program] waiting for me in the mailbox,” he said.

During his week in Washington, Visser will have intense lessons on American civics, history and politics, including meetings with government officials and members of Congress.

The program was established in 1962 by an act of Congress to educate highly performing high school students in American government and democratic ideals.

Visser will also receive a $5,000 college scholarship, funded by the Hearst Foundation, for his participation in the program.

While Visser is excited to participate in the program, he also sees it as an opportunity. Visser said he is interested in health care and educational reform policy, and hopes the program will provide him with experience he can apply to those issues.

“I love meeting new people, and I’ve always wanted to serve others,” he said. “I see public policy and government as the best ways to do that.”

Visser said he could imagine a future for himself in public service, but not necessarily as a candidate for office.

“I don’t like politicians as a guild,” he said. “I don’t have a passion for them.”

Instead, Visser said he was more focused on the process behind politics, including writing legislation and crafting public policy.

“I’m interested in helping people see the opportunity in their lives and realizing that opportunity,” he said.


Providence Classical School Student Selected as 2015 Virginia Senate Page

Cabell Jones, a student at Providence Classical School, was selected as one of 16 students from across Virginia to serve as pages in the state Senate during its 2015 session.

Pages are tasked with assisting senators during floor sessions and committee meetings, and must be 13 or 14 at the time of their selection. They also run errands, answer telephones, assist with filing bills and papers and help with mail distribution.

The 2015 pages will serve until the session adjourns Feb. 28.

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