February 27, 2023 – Today, the Georgia Department of Education announced the students selected as Georgia's delegates and alternates to the 2023 United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP).
Mr. Jack Lakis (Harrison High School, Cobb County School District) and Mr. Luke Schofield (Lumpkin County High School, Lumpkin County School System) were selected as this year's delegates. In addition, Ms. Sarah Bellagat (Eagle's Landing High School, Henry County Schools) and Ms. Danielle Simone Acosta (Heard County High School, Heard County School System) were selected as alternates.
“As part of a well-rounded education, educators need to encourage our students to engage in activities that expand their civic knowledge and skills – after all, good citizenship is one responsibility all Americans share," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “I am extremely proud of our students selected to represent Georgia through the United States Senate Youth Program. I know they will be outstanding ambassadors for our state."
Each year, the USSYP brings 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 weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it. During the program week, the student delegates will attend meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a Supreme Court justice, and cabinet agencies' leaders, among others. The program's overall mission 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. Jack and Luke will join a 104-student delegation and 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 its inception.
In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a solid commitment to volunteer work, all USSYP student delegates rank academically in the top one percent of their state's high-school juniors and seniors.
Jack Lakis is a Harrison High School senior serving as the student body secretary. He also serves as the Georgia state lead in Project TEAL, an organization dedicated to promoting civic education. He oversees curriculum, policy, and the group's efforts to lobby at the Georgia General Assembly. As a narrative media specialist for the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition and a staff writer for Vox Atlanta, Jack ensures that students' voices are represented in the political sphere. At school, he founded Political Converse, an organization that supports student engagement with current events and government in a nonpartisan atmosphere. Jack plans to major in political science or international politics before law school. He hopes to become a Supreme Court clerk and one day serve as a Supreme Court justice.
Luke Schofield is a Lumpkin County High School senior serving as the student body president. He has also served as an attorney on his school's mock trial team. He applied critical thinking in civil and criminal cases, exercised proper court procedures, and collaborated with community attorneys to sharpen his argument skills. He also spoke to the Georgia Department of Education on behalf of his district's student body as part of a competitive grant application. Standing alongside principals, district leaders, doctors, entrepreneurs, and community leaders, he delivered a speech on how career and technology education opportunities impact the success of his peers. As a result, his district was awarded the grant, and funds were used to establish a school-based college and career academy. In addition, Luke was instrumental in securing approval for his school's participation in the civic engagement diploma seal program. In college, he plans to major in environmental science, focusing on public policy.
Sarah Bellagat is a resident of McDonough and attends Eagle's Landing High School of Henry County Schools.
Danielle Acosta is a resident of LaGrange and attends Heard County High School of the Heard County School System.
Please visit the GaDOE USSYP Excellence Recognition webpage for more information.