Owatonna High School student Fardouza Farah is one of two Minnesotan students selected to represent the state at this year’s U.S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP).
Each year two of the highest-achieving students from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education system overseas are chosen through a competitive merit-based process at state departments of education across the nation. USSYP is an educational opportunity, created by a 1962 U.S. Senate Resolution, for exceptional high school students interested in pursuing a career in public service.
It’s a week-long program where students learn about the U.S. Senate, Farah said. Farah applied to the program in December, submitting a couple of essays and recommendations. She was selected as a finalist, asked to do an interview and found out she had been chosen to represent the state earlier in February.
“I was kind of surprised because they do only pick two people from each state. So I didn’t really expect it, but I was grateful and honored and very excited,” Farah said.
Farah will join Red Wing student Alainn Hanson and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith in representing the state virtually this year from March 14 to 17. Farah and Hanson were able to meet personally with the two Minnesota senators, according to Farah. The first ever virtual Washington Week has been designed to be interactive with educational webinars and leadership forum opportunities for student delegates, according to a press release.
Participants will learn about the branches of government, what it means to be an elected official and the importance of making democratic decisions on behalf of the public. Student delegates will attend online meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court and governmental officials.
In addition to the professional development opportunities, Farah will also receive a $10,000 college scholarship to continue her undergraduate education, provided by the Hearst Foundations to encourage continued coursework in public service.
Selected delegates rank academically in the top 1% of their states among high school juniors and seniors. USSYP alumni include U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, Transportation Secretary and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie among other top officials.
Currently delegates have an online community established where the students get to meet fellow student delegates.
“I was really looking forward to meeting the other delegates, which I’ve already met them, but I’m looking forward to that network of getting to know people who have the same goals and ideas as me and it’s been fun getting to know them so far,” Farah said.
Farah, a junior at Owatonna High School is highly involved in her school, participating in Student Council, National Honor Society, speech, mock trial, Owatonna Green Team, LINK Crew and the Junior Class representative, but her impressive resume doesn’t end there.
“I’m on the National Justice Education Project, which is a nonprofit that is centered around systemic racism and trying to raise awareness on mass incarceration,” Farah said.
She has helped tutor students in Kyrgyzstan, providing free English lessons. She is the chapter president of Minnesota Youth Against Sexual Violence, working with fellow Minnesota students to increase awareness about sexual violence and provide support to sexual assault survivors. Locally she has organized the Owatonna Youth Against Sexual Violence group in an effort to help Minnesota survivors. She has also co-founded a nonprofit organization, FL Tutoring Services, which provides tutoring to low-income students and underrepresented students across the state via free virtual tutoring, according to a news release.
Farah said she is interested in holding some sort of elected office in the future. Whether that’s at a local or national level, she hasn’t decided yet.
“I do think that legislators kind of have the most power in this country in making changes,” Farah said adding that she wants to be an advocate and leader for positive change.