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East Ridge senior chosen for U.S. Senate Youth Program

Growing up in St. Paul, and then moving to Woodbury, Dasom Ham has seen firsthand the impacts socio-economic differences can have.

“The situation where I grew up made me kind of realize the differences and made me want to come up with solutions and ways to mediate those,” the East Ridge High School senior said.

Ham will have the chance to see how change happens this week when she travels to Washington as part of the U.S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP).

“I’m interested in going into politics, public policy, economics that kind of thing, so I applied for this program as a way to understand more about it and see if it’s something that I want to go into,” she said. “Also, I believed this program would provide firsthand experience and practice for me to try to find out answers to my basic questions within the political system and public services.”

Ham, along with 104 other students from across the country, will participate in the Youth Senate Program March 5-12.

Ham, who lives in Woodbury, is one of two delegates from Minnesota.

Ham serves as a student representative on the Woodbury Planning Commission, and she has previously served on the Youth Executive Board under the East Metro Integration District since 2013 in addition to having participated in the Minnesota House of Representatives High School Page Program.

Since Ham, who is a post-secondary education options (PSEO) student, will be gone for a week and have to take some time off from classes.

“The school has been really accommodating,” she said.

Youth senate

The USSYP was founded in 1962 by the U.S. Senate resolution as a way 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.

The USSYP is an intensive weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it.

In order to be selected as a USSYP delegate, Ham had to submit an application, which includes her resume and letters of recommendation in addition to two essays.

In the essays Ham had to discuss senate’s role in the government as well as how she viewed Minnesota’s stance on certain issues such as education, housing, jobs and the economy.

“You’ve got to delve down deep into it,” she said.

While in Washington, Ham and the other student delegates will attend meetings and briefings with senators, house representatives, congressional staff, members of the national media, an ambassador for the U.S. and a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additionally President Barack Obama will meet with the student delegates if time allows.

“I’m really looking forward to talking with the senators and the president obviously,” Ham said. “Also, with the whole supreme court judge nomination thing right now, it’ll be interesting to talk to one of the supreme court justices about that.”

Transportation and all expenses for the delegates will be provided by the Hearst Foundations. The student delegates will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington.

Additionally, the Hearst Foundations will also award $5,000 college scholarships to all student delegates for undergraduate studies, with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science.

Ham said she is looking forward to the USSYP because it is a great opportunity for her to get a peek into the world of politics in order to see if it’s something that she wants to pursue in the future.

Ham said she has a desire to look at ways to eliminate poverty, by studying multicultural issues, inequity from socioeconomic status and achievement gaps among subcultural groups.

“I’m excited to make connections by talking with our political leaders,” she said, “while looking at whether this is what I want to do.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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