Trumbull student named to Senate Youth Program

Isha Dalal
Isha Dalal

Trumbull High’s Isha Dalal is one of two Connecticut students who will serve as delegates to the 55th annual United States Senate Youth Program.

Founded in 1962, the program has been sponsored by the Senate and funded by the Hearst Foundations since inception. The program aims to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and the vital importance of democratic decision-making, not only for America but for people around the world.

A total of 104 of the most outstanding high school students — two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity — will go to Washington, D.C., next month for an intensive weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within the student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to the program week, the Hearst Foundations provide each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue course work in government, history and public affairs. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by the Hearst Foundations. No government funds are utilized.

Isha serves as the chair of education and advocacy for Youth United for Habitat for Humanity for Coastal Fairfield County. She is also the founder of the statewide organization Voice, which empowers students to become involved in legislative affairs. More than 60 students from Connecticut are involved, and this year’s Voice theme is promoting literacy. She is the president of the school’s mock trial team, which has participated in national and international competitions. She also is the vice president of the Trumbull High Model United Nations organization, which has competed in numerous Model U.N. conferences.

Delegates are selected by the state departments of education, after nomination by teachers and principals.

While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators, members of the House of Representatives, congressional staff, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United States, and senior members of the national media. The students will also tour many of the national monuments and several museums, and they will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington.

In addition to outstanding 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. Among the program’s alumni are Sen. Susan Collins, the first delegate to be elected to the Senate; Sen. Cory Gardner, the first delegate to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the second to be elected to the Senate; former Chief Judge Robert Henry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit; former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt; and former presidential advisers Thomas “Mack” McLarty and Karl Rove. Additional notables include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Idaho Lt. Gov. David Leroy, former President of the Progressive Policy Institute Robert Shapiro, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, health care providers, and university educators.

Members of the U.S. Senate Youth Program 2017 annual Senate Advisory Committee are Sen. Roger F. Wicker of Mississippi, Republican co-chair; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Democratic co-chair; and bipartisan Senate advisory members Sens. Bill Cassidy MD (R-La.), Joni K. Ernst (R-Iowa), James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Each year, the honorary co-chairs of the program are the vice president of the United States and the Senate majority and minority leaders.