Harris to attend US Senate Youth Program’s Washington Week

By BUSTER WOLFE,

If Oak Grove High School Student Body President Noah Harris had his choice, he would rather see politicians favor the person over the party. In fact, he would rather see no political parties at all.

“I’m an Independent,” he said earlier this week. “Really about half the country is an Independent right now.

“Honestly, I would love it if we got away from the two-party system and have everyone be an Independent and have everyone actually do your homework on the candidates and learn what they are actually about and what you want. Make your own decisions instead of voting for a party.”

Harris will get his chance to meet federal officials – including President Trump – next year after he was named one of only two Mississippi delegates to the United States Senate Youth Program’s Washington Week March 3-10, 2018. The honor comes with a $10,000 scholarship.

Also representing Mississippi for the Mississippi Department of Education and the 56th annual Youth Senate Program staff will be Morgan Atkins of Center Hill High School.

Harris said he was excited to be chosen for the program.

 “It’s actually a really big program; it’s got a long history in its 56th year,” he said. “It’s sponsored by the Hearst Foundation. They pick two delegates from each state, just like in the Senate. There’s 104 total, so every Senator hosts a delegate to go to Washington Week. You get to meet the President and you get to meet almost the entire Cabinet. You meet your two Senators from your specific state and you get to have lunch with them and ask them questions. You get to speak with them. You get to meet other government officials. You get to meet people from the Supreme Court, people from NASA, other senators, just about anybody in government.”

He had to undergo an intense selection process.

“I have applied for a few scholarships, but their process is really unique and how they narrow it down,” he said. “First, you fill out the application and then they assign you one of the three testing locations in the state to take a public policy test. After that test, you write an essay and they take the Top 16 scores from that test overall for an interview at the Mississippi Department of Education. Out of those 16, they interviewed us in a panel of five and they took into account our interview and our resume that we had to bring, our letter of recommendation [written by OGHS Assistant Principal Keith Bounds] and our essay that we wrote after the test. So they picked two out of those 16.”

Initially, each student had to be elected to a position at each school. In addition to the Student Body President, Harris – the son of Anthony and Frankie Harris and has a sister, Peyton – is president of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and secretary of Beta Club.

In addition, he is a power forward in the basketball team, first baseman on the baseball team, plays violin and piano and is an Eagle Scout.

The Senate Youth Program is the ideal classroom for Harris, who said he wants to become a lawyer. That’s why the scholarship is special to him.

“When you look for scholarships, guidance counselors tell you to look for certain things in a field you want to go in or related to a field that you want to do because there are so many scholarships tailored only for those types of people,” he said. “This is a good opportunity because I need to pay for college any way I can. I want to be a lawyer, so I was looking for scholarships in law, public policy, politics, anything I could find.”

Harris, who is a Coca-Cola Scholarship semifinalist, said he plans to see how government works during his week-long trip to Washington, D.C.

“The thing you can gain from this is perspective,” he said. “Everyone hears all the stories about these people on TV, but the only way you can really get to know how they work, how they tick and what drives them to go to work every day to help people is by going up to them and learning about them, their stories, their background and asking them questions about what they love about their job and why do they work so hard.”

Harris said he has applied to several colleges, but has not had any responses yet. “I want to go into political science or public policy with economics as a minor, then law school after that,” he said.

According to the Senate Youth Program website, at least seventeen military officers, representing each of the military services and the Coast Guard, serve as mentors for the students during the week. The military mentors are competitively selected by Department of Defense staff, representing one of the longest standing partnerships between the Department of Defense and a national youth program. This in-depth exposure to leadership at the highest levels fuels and sustains the delegates’ commitment to making a difference in their country, communities and schools.