By: Staff Writer Andrew Choi
MSJ Senior Dustin Chiang was selected on Monday, December 8 as a second alternate to represent California at the 53rd-annual U.S. Senate Youth Program. California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson named two high school student representatives and two alternates to represent California at the event, sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The Smoke Signal interviewed Chiang to talk about his accomplishment and to explain what exactly being selected as a delegate means.
Smoke Signal: Can you describe what exactly the Senate Youth Program is?
Dustin Chiang: The U.S. Senate Youth Program was founded in 1962 by U.S. Senators who wanted to give high school students an opportunity to experience government and learn more about the United States government. So they created this program in collaboration with the Hearst Foundation, who cover all costs of this program, in addition to giving $5,000 scholarships to each of the participants. So they sponsor a week in Washington D.C., all-expenses paid, for two students in each state in the United States to meet with very high ranking U.S. government leaders. Like last year, they met with President Barack Obama. They hear from great speakers, learn about Washington D.C., learn about our U.S. government, and overall just gain a better understanding of how our government system works.
SS: What was the process in applying for this program like?
DC: They released an application online available to all students in California. The only mandatory prerequisite was that you have to hold office in your high school or on your school board. You also had to be nominated by your school administrator or principal. You had to complete an application that detailed your academic records and you also had to write a couple of essays on the U.S. government, the political process, and basically demonstrate your knowledge about the government.
SS: What do you think made you a special candidate to be selected?
DC: I think that there are probably a lot excellent candidates here in California but for myself, I’ve tried to get involved with the political process as much as I can, being very interested in government. So I made it very clear in my application what I’ve done so far in government, my interests in government, and how passionate I am.
I also worked on Mike Honda’s Congressional campaign so I have a lot of experience with that. I’m also the Chair for his Student Advisory Council. We’re a group of high school students who meet together every two weeks to discuss current events and we plan community service events, conferences for the district, and just overall try to educate the community more about current events. So that probably was a contributing factor to me being selected.
SS: What advice would you give to younger students who want to apply to the Senate Youth Program?
DC: Follow whatever it is that you’re interested in. Don’t do activities or extracurriculars just because you think it’ll get you somewhere. Do it because you like it and if you spend your time on something you truly enjoy, that’s what will get you far and that’s what will get you into programs like these, and that’s what’s going to take you far in life. Because if you don’t enjoy and have fun whatever it is you’re doing you’re not going to find any passion whatsoever and you’re not going to have that motivation to go the extra step and succeed. Follow your passion and if you truly enjoy it, you’ll find great success.