Hoeven, Heitkamp Congratulate North Dakota Students Selected for U.S. Senate Youth Program

Alyx Schmitz of Oakes and Ashlen Wright of West Fargo Will Spend a Week in Washington, Win $5,000 Scholarship

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp today announced that the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) has selected Alyx Schmitz of Oakes and Ashlen Wright of West Fargo to serve as delegates to the program’s 55th annual Washington Week. The program, which features 104 student delegates from across the country, will be held March 4 – 11.

“Both in the classroom and in their communities, North Dakota’s students demonstrate excellence and a hard work ethic,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Alyx and Ashlen were selected to participate in the prestigious U.S. Senate Youth Program this year, and will receive scholarships, because of their outstanding efforts. They will play an important role at this weeklong program by representing our state. They will also have a chance to connect with their peers from across the U.S., while at the same time learning more about how the federal government works and what it does. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is an important part of their high school education and will serve them well throughout their lives.”

Alyx Schmitz

Schmitz attends Oakes High School and serves as the Student Body president. She also serves as the secretary for the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center Advisory Committee. She was selected as a 2016 Girls Nation senator, a North Dakota ambassador to the National Student Leadership Summit, and North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) Distinguished Student runner-up. Schmitz is involved in varsity track and field, basketball, volleyball, choir, band, her church youth group and several other community volunteer organizations. She hopes to secure an internship with a North Dakota senator, practice law and run for elected office.

Ashlen Wright

Wright, a fifth generation North Dakotan, attends West Fargo Sheyenne High School and serves as a member of the "Imagine Thriving" Regional Student Board. She founded Mining for GEMS: Girls in Engineering, Math and Science which has reached more than 1,700 girls. She serves on the STEM Student Advisory Board, the region's “Imagine Thriving” Student board and is president and founder of her high school's Mental Health Awareness Club. Wright is a member of the American Mensa Honor Society and represented her school at the 2016 North Dakota State Leadership seminar. She served as a page for the 2016 NDGOP convention and was MVP for her Student Congress team. She participates in theater and choir and is a member of the 2017 North Dakota Governor's Chorus, and regularly performs the national anthem for NDHSAA state championship games. She would like to run for public office in the future.


Created in 1962 by Senate Resolution 324, the USSYP has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations since inception. Senate testimony states that the impetus for the program 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 very competitive, merit-based program brings 104 of the most outstanding high school students — two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity — to Washington, D.C. for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and those who lead it. The program’s mission is to help instill within each student delegate a more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service.

While in Washington, student delegates attend meetings and briefings with Senators, Representatives in the House, Congressional staff, the President, a Supreme Court Justice, leaders of cabinet agencies, an Ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media. The students will also tour many national monuments and several museums, and will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundations provides each student with a $5,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations because, as stipulated in S.Res.324, no government funds are utilized.

The chief educational officer in each state selects the delegates after nomination by teachers and principals. This year’s delegates were designated by Ms. Kirsten K. Baesler, Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In addition to exceptional leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates generally rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 5,000 strong, alumni of the program include Senators Susan Collins and Cory Gardner, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former presidential advisor Karl Rove.