Hoeven, Heitkamp Announce North Dakota Delegates to U.S. Senate Youth Program

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp today announced the selection of students Bethany Berntson and Tyler Toepke-Floyd to serve as North Dakota delegates to the 52nd Annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) scheduled to take place this March in Washington, D.C. This year’s delegates were designated by Kirsten Baesler, Superintendent of Public Instruction, who selected the students from a list of nominees recommended by North Dakota teachers and principals.

“We are proud to welcome Bethany Berntson and Tyler Toepke-Floyd to our nation’s capital as they participate in the prestigious United States Senate Youth Program,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Bethany and Tyler represent two of North Dakota’s brightest and most accomplished high school students. We know they will represent our state well as they meet with peers from across the country to further their understanding of our  government while also cultivating the skills that will help propel their success as our state’s and country’s future leaders.”

Bethany Berntson attends Valley City Jr/Sr High School where she serves as her class president and as a Student Council representative. She is a student representative to the North Dakota Association of Student Councils, a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, a North Dakota Farmer’s Union Distinguished Student and the Voice of Democracy Regional Runner-up. She received the National Forensics League Rank of Outstanding Distinction and is a North Dakota Leadership Seminar Outstanding Student Leader. She is the chair of school food drives, a speaker at Kiwanis and Optimist Clubs and her Church Youth Group’s secretary-treasurer.

Tyler Toepke-Floyd attends Wishek High School where he serves as a Student Council representative. Recognized as the Most Outstanding Group Leader at the North Dakota Leadership Seminar, he was also a finalist at the International Science and Engineering Fair in 2012 and 2013. He received a Bronze Ranking at the International World Sustainable Project Olympiad. Tyler participates in Acalympics, band, drama, speech, FFA, FBLA and the North Dakota Governor’s School. He also volunteers for local charities and has taken mission trips to the Bahamas and Colorado.

Bismarck resident Noah Germolus, who attends Century High School, and Fargo resident Jacob Stibbe, who attends Fargo North High School, have been chosen as alternates for this year’s program.

The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962. Originally proposed by Senators Tom Kuchel, Mike Mansfield, Everett Dirksen and Hubert Humphrey, the impetus for the program, as stated in Senate testimony, was “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.”

Each year, the competitive, merit-based program brings 104 of the country’s most accomplished high school students to the nation’s capital for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. Student delegates visit Capitol Hill, the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Supreme Court and other historic sites in Washington, and meet with senators, cabinet officers, government leaders and other policymakers. Students are selected for the program based on distinguishing academic achievement, leadership ability and volunteer work.

The Hearst Foundations, which covers all expenses for the program, also provides each student delegate with a $5,000 undergraduate college scholarship, encouraging students to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs.

To date, more than 5,000 students have participated in the USSYP since its founding. Several participants have gone on to become government officials, including members of Congress, military leaders and foreign ambassadors. More information is available at http://www.ussenateyouth.org/.