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Platteville students going to capitols
Elyssa Vondra web
Elyssa Vondra

Two Platteville High School students will be spending time in the U.S. and state capitols, respectively, this month.

PHS senior Elyssa Vondra is one of two Wisconsin high school students who will be delegates to the United States Senate Youth Program in Washington starting Saturday.

One day later, PHS student Saafia Masoom will be in Madison as a participant in the state Senate Scholar Program Sunday through March 12.

Vondra and Berlin High School senior Alesha Gunther will be the state’s two delegates to the USSYP’s 54th annual Washington Week, through March 12. They were chosen by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers after nominations by teachers and principals.

The USSYP’s Washington Week brings 104 high school students, from the 50 states, Washington and the Department of Defense Education Activity, to Washington for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The 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,” according to a USSYP news release.

While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators, House Representatives and Congressional staff, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the U.S. and senior members of the national media. The students will also tour national monuments.

The Hearst Foundations provide 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; no government funds are utilized.

Vondra is the PHS Student Council senior representative. She is also involved in Kiwanis, forensics, Model United Nations and Mock Trial, and maintains a 4.0 grade point average while taking Advanced Placement classes. She attended law-related programming through Stanford University last summer. She plans to earn a law degree.

Alumni of the program include U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R–Maine) and Cory Gardner (R–Colorado), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, and former presidential advisors Thomas “Mack” McLarty and Karl Rove.

The Senate Scholar Program is an intensive week-long educational program offered by the Wisconsin State Senate. Admission to the program is limited to 33 academically exceptional high school juniors and seniors from around Wisconsin. Each Senate Scholar receives a hands-on, up-close view of the Legislature in such diverse areas as policy development, constituent relations, and processing legislation by working with Senators, legislative staff and UW faculty.

Masoom is one of three students from the 17th Senate District participating in the program; the others are Josh Weaver, a junior at Darlington High School, and Nate Buss, a student at Mauston High School. The students selected for the program completed an application process and were selected by the office of the Senate Chief Clerk to participate.