The future of politics: senior Sri Jaladi and the United States Senate Youth Program

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Courtesy of Sri Jaladi

Student Delegates meet with Dr. Anthony Fauci during the week-long United States Senate Youth Program to discuss the pandemic and the government’s response. Jaladi also met with Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court to discuss the appointment process. “The United States Youth Senate program is an incredible experiential learning opportunity for students interested in government and politics to get a deeper understanding of our government and its functions,” Jaladi said.

By Ellie West, Parkway West High School

Senior Sri Jaladi rolled over and checked his phone, still groggy with sleep. He scrolled through emails and notifications, stopping when he saw a message from the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Excitement built as he told his parents the good news.

Jaladi was one of two Missouri students to represent the state in the USSYP, a week long program from March 14-18 in which selected students meet a justice of the Supreme Court, receive mentorship from military officers and attend meetings with the President of the United States. In addition to government experience, selectees also receive a $10,000 college scholarship.

“The United States Senate Youth Program is a program that’s meant for juniors and seniors in high school who are interested in government and politics and who want to have the experience [of] really getting a better look into the United States Government, how it operates and all the different things that go on inside of it,” Jaladi said.

In order to apply, potential student delegates must hold an elected office in their school or community from a list of accepted positions. Prior to applying, they must also be selected for the program by their school principal.

“Assistant Principal Beth Aromando was kind enough to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I was notified that I was selected as a finalist and went to Jefferson City to do an interview. I was nervous, [but] I was excited when I was selected,” Jaladi said.

Jaladi became one of more than 5,800 USSYP alumni to get this peek into the federal government, with former student delegates including Senator Susan Collins and Governor Chris Christie.

“I applied because I’m someone who’s interested in going into government and politics in the future, and all the different experiences that I’ve already been able to have in this field have been wonderful, but I think that there isn’t really another opportunity like this one,” Jaladi said.

The USSYP was founded by the Senate in 1962 and is funded by the Hearst Foundations. Every year the Senate renews its unanimous sponsorship of Resolution 324, continuing its sponsorship of the USSYP. Additionally, at least one senator from each state participates in the program yearly, with the majority of states being represented by both senators.

I hope to enter into the field of public service, policy and government in my future [because] I believe that government and politics are avenues that can change the world for the better, and I hope to have the opportunity to create those impacts.”

— Sri Jaladi

“I’d love to be able to learn more about [the senators’] process of running for political office, what inspired them and how they just go about their work on a daily basis, because it’s not easy balancing both your state [and] your constituents. [It’s] insane trying to help a nation as a whole,” Jaladi said.

Traditionally, student delegates meet their senators during the USSYP Annual Senate Reception, during which time students take photos with their senators and are interviewed by hometown media. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, USSYP took place virtually for the 2021 session, with all meetings facilitated through online platforms.

 “A lot of the interactions that you’d usually have in person are now virtual, [but] my favorite part of the program has been the number of individuals who are able to serve others in a variety of unique manners,” Jaladi said.

Despite the virtual format, the USSYP worked to maintain the same level of interaction and opportunity as the original program through the use of programs like Zoom. Additionally, student delegates were asked to record themselves introducing themselves and their states.

“While it would have been incredible to have this opportunity in-person, I think the US Senate Youth Program has done an amazing job shifting the program virtually and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity,” Jaladi said.

Although the program did not take place in-person this year, Jaladi described the program as a once in a lifetime experience to see the inner workings of the federal government.

“I hope to enter into the field of public service, policy and government in my future [because] I believe that government and politics are avenues that can change the world for the better, and I hope to have the opportunity to create those impacts,” Jaladi said.

Sri Jaladi stands for a picture. (Erin Fluchel)

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on April 12, 2021.