Homer High School senior John Walsworth has been selected as one of 104 student delegates to participate in the United States Senate Youth Program and attend the 52nd annual Washington Week, March 8-15. It is sponsored by the United States Senate and funded and administered by the Heart Foundation.
Walsworth applied for the opportunity in October and was notified of his selection last week.
“I was in calculus class, in the middle of a test, when the principal (Doug Waclawski) pulled me out and definitely made it look like I was in trouble,” said Walsworth of the being taken to the principal’s office. “Mr. Waclawski has a sick sense of humor.”
Walsworth breathed a sigh of relief when he found out he’d been summoned for a phone call. That relief turned to loud excitement when Walsworth heard who was on the phone.
“It was the Senate Youth Program person and they were incredibly excited to talk to me and I was incredibly excited to talk to them,” said Walsworth of being informed he would attend the Washington program. “I think I disrupted one or two classrooms from the front office when I got a little loud on the phone. I was very excited.”
One of the first people Walsworth told about the honor was his brother, Peter, who was selected as a delegate in 2007, and had shared stories of his experience.
“He came back with amazing stories about talking to people he was most impressed with,” said Walsworth.
The agenda for the week-long visit to the nation’s capital offers opportunities for the delegates to “deepen their understanding of America’s political processes and strengthen their resolve to pursue careers in public service,” according to information provided by USSYP. The students will hear major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials from the departments of State and Defense and directors of federal agencies. They also will participate in a meeting with a justice from the Supreme Court. Each of the sessions with elected officials includes question-and-answer periods.
A high school junior and senior are selected from each state to participate in this highly competitive process, with the delegates chosen based on merit. In addition to a very busy week in the nation’s capital, Walsworth also received a $5,000 undergraduate college scholarship.
Walsworth has visited Washington, D.C., in the past, but this opportunity offers unique experiences.
“It’s going to be such an incredible thing, to work inside the Supreme Court during at least one session,” said Walsworth. “We have speakers that are as high up as the vice president and I think we get to meet the president.”
Throughout the students’ visit, a nurse will be available, a physician will be on call and specially selected men and women from the military services will serve as mentors. The mentoring is especially significant to Walsworth, who has applied to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“That’s my first interest, but after that the Naval Academy and West Point, in that order,” he said.
At school, Walsworth is the student body vice president and is involved with the National Honor Society, is captain of the Mariner basketball team and plays soccer. Last year he ran cross country, but gave that up this year in order to help coach the Homer Middle School soccer program. He performs with the Homer High concert band, playing trumpet, French horn and trombone, and sings tenor with the swing and concert choirs. He helps mentor other students, especially those struggling with math. During the summer of his sophomore year, he helped teach arithmetic, algebra and geometry during summer school.
Spare time is something he doesn’t have “a lot of,” but when he does, he spends it playing the piano and singing.
In her letter recommending Walsworth, HHS guidance counselor Lin Hampson said, in part, “It is very challenging to write a letter of recommendation of John Walsworth without it looking like some kind of shopping list of achievements and honors. … John has excelled at academics, music and sports for all four years of his high school career. I believe that the difference between John and many other high-achieving students is the degree to which he is driven and the expectations he holds for himself.”
Walsworth’s mother, Naomi, echoed Hampson’s comments.
“He’s a really hard worker, very conscientious, always doing his best, which is his own strong belief. He’s very determined and has a lot of perseverance,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to come from a little town in Alaska and participate in something like this. He’s really excited. I don’t think anything is more perfectly suited to him.”
Although he sets his sights high, Walsworth also appreciates the smaller things in life. An example is his reaction to one of his brother Peter’s stories.
“He told me after he got (to D.C.), the thing that impressed him most at the hotel was that they had the White House sculpted out of butter in the reception area,” said Walsworth. “It was very impressive and very ornate, and probably high quality butter.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.