David Daniel, a junior at Owensboro High School (Owensboro Independent), and Heng Yang, a senior at Conner High School (Boone County), were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the national 104-student delegation of the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Daniel and Yang will also each receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study from The Hearst Foundations.
The students will represent Kentucky during the 61st annual USSYP Washington Week, to be held March 4-11.
“The U.S. Senate Youth Program creates experiences that engage, inspire and unlock leadership potential,” said Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass. “I congratulate these students on their selection for this opportunity and I know they will emerge from this unique experience well-positioned to become even more active citizens in their communities, our state and the nation.”
Zachary Clifton, a junior at Corbin High School (Corbin Independent), and Audrey Gilbert, a senior at Frankfort High School (Frankfort Independent), were chosen as alternates to the 2023 program and may be asked to serve if a primary delegate is unable to participate.
The selection process for the program is rigorous and includes an application, interview and public affairs examination. Two high school juniors or seniors are selected each year from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Delegate selection is administered by each state’s chief school officer in cooperation with high school principals.
The number of Kentucky applicants for the 2022-2023 program was almost double the number of applicants in recent years.
The U.S. Senate Youth Program, created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962, has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations. The program brings the most outstanding high school students from around the nation to Washington, D.C., for an intensive weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it.
Daniel brings the art of communication to students. He is the founder and president of Owensboro High School’s speech and debate team and president of the debate society at Owensboro Community and Technical College, where he earned the school’s 2022 Most Outstanding Open Debater Award. He founded and serves as president of his school’s math Olympiad team and science team. He also serves as co-president of his school’s academic team, earning 11th place in the 2022 Governor’s Cup state competition for science.
As a member of his school’s concert, jazz and red steel pan bands, Daniel learned about teamwork and responsibility as the percussion section leader. He said his future goals are “to uphold communities and ensure well-being in the most prominent positions of state and national politics.” He added, “A large goal of mine is to lead Kentucky one day, as I care for all Kentuckians and their prosperity.”
Beyond expressing loyalty to his family through working at his family’s Chinese restaurant, China Wok, Yang also values his school community. In his student council role, Yang promotes school spirit events like senior nights for sports, door-decorating contests and “Trunk or Treat.” As a student representative of the Boone County School Board, Yang engages with students across the school district, overseeing committees regarding students’ voices, and helps on projects such as developing a mental health website and filming a school bus driver recruitment advertisement.
Outside the classroom, Yang serves as co-president of the GoPantry Ambassador Council, arranging district-wide food drives for students dealing with food insecurities. He volunteers at his local hospital, eventually wanting to be an oncologist. He expressed this passion through developing science study resources for his school’s academic team and engaging in writing research proposals on miRNA detection in colon cancer at Wood Hudson Cancer Research.
In addition to exceptional leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top 1% of their states among high school juniors and seniors.
The 2023 Washington Week will be held in-person, pending the latest health guidance. The program agenda routinely includes student meetings with senators, the president, Cabinet secretaries, a justice of the Supreme Court, senior members of the national media and other key policymakers. Each delegate will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in history, government and public affairs.