Students Headed to Washington, DC and to Receive $10,000 Scholarship
The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) announces that high school students Ms. Peyton Emilie Barker and Mr. Bryson Cole Riggleman will join Senator Joe Manchin, III and Senator Shelley Moore Capito in representing West Virginia during the 62nd annual USSYP Washington Week, to be held Mar. 2 through 9.
Peyton Barker of Ronceverte and Bryson Riggleman of Petersburg were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation. Each delegate will also receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study. The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 and has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations since inception.
Originally proposed by Senators Kuchel, Mansfield, Dirksen and Humphrey, the Senate leadership of the day, the impetus for the program as stated in Senate testimony is “to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, learn the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and emphasize the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.” Each year this extremely competitive merit-based program provides the most outstanding high school students – two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity – with an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP 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 coursework in government, history and public affairs. All expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in Senate Resolution 324, no government funds are utilized.
Peyton Barker, a senior at Greenbrier East High School, serves as the president of the Student Body and the West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State governor. She is passionate about mentoring middle school students as a volunteer with Wyld Life, a nationally known youth group. Peyton is a member of her school’s tennis team and serves as team captain on her school’s volleyball team. She is a member of the yearbook staff where she has served as the editor for three years. She also volunteers at her local church through the teen ministry and provides childcare for toddlers. Peyton plans to attend college and pursue a degree in mechanical engineering after graduating from high school. She has a desire to join student government and create STEM education programs for middle school students while attending college.
Bryson Riggleman, a senior at Petersburg High School, serves as the president of the Senior Class, the Student Council, and the local chapter of SkillsUSA, as well as serving as the historian for his National Honor Society chapter. When he is not actively involved in leadership positions, he is volunteering for athletic boosters and local church outreach where he distributes meals within his community. He is also involved in other school functions, such as operating the scoreboard at basketball games for four years and introducing players before the game. He also gives the morning and afternoon announcements for the entire school over the intercom system. Bryson gives back to his community by bagging food for Project Equip, which helps provide food to families in need. After high school, Bryson plans to attend college and pursue a degree in political science and criminal justice. He would like to eventually go to law school and work for the federal government or run for political office.
Chosen as alternates to the 2024 program were Mr. Bryan Gregory Cole, a resident of Martinsburg, who attends Spring Mills High School and Mr. Gavin Christopher Bias, a resident of Danville, who attends Scott High School. Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity, after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s West Virginia delegates and alternates were designated by Ms. Michele L. Blatt, State Superintendent of Schools.
During the program week, the student delegates will attend meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, and leaders of cabinet agencies, among others. In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 6,100 strong, alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities that are often directed toward public service.
Among the many distinguished alumni are: Senator Susan Collins, the first alumnus to be elected U.S. senator; Secretary of Transportation and former Mayor of South Bend Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, the first alumnus to be appointed as a cabinet secretary; former Senator Cory Gardner, the second alumnus to be elected U.S. senator and the first to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first alumnus to be elected governor; former Chief Judge Robert Henry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt and former presidential advisors Thomas “Mack” McLarty and Karl Rove. Additional notables include former Lt. Governor of Idaho David Leroy, former Provost of Wake Forest University Rogan Kersh, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, healthcare providers and other university educators.
Members of the U.S. Senate Youth Program 2024 annual Senate Advisory Committee are: Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the 2024 USSYP Democratic Co-Chair and Senator John Barrasso, M.D. of Wyoming, the 2024 USSYP Republican Co-Chair. The full USSYP Senate Advisory Committee consists of the vice president of the United States and the Senate majority and minority leaders who annually serve as the program’s Honorary Co-Chairs; two senators, one from each party, serving as acting Co-Chairs who each have keynote speaking roles, and an eight-member bipartisan Senate panel, four senators from each party, who lend their names in support.
Serving on the Advisory Committee for the upcoming program are: Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Senator Alex Padilla of California, Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama, Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota and Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. For more information please visit: www.ussenateyouth.org.