In March, a Charlottesville High School student will be rubbing elbows with some of Washington’s A-list politicians.
David Cohn, a CHS senior, is one of two Virginia students selected to participate in the 53rd Annual U.S. Senate Youth Program — a week-long residency for exceptional high school students who are interested in public service.
Two students from each state, the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools were selected. Caleb Visser, who attends Jamestown High School in Williamsburg, also was chosen to represent Virginia. Both students will receive $5,000 college scholarships.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get it,” Cohn said, noting that he was surprised when a thick envelope including an acceptance letter and program information arrived in the mail. “I’m looking forward to meeting all of these government officials.”
During his time in the nation’s capital, Cohn, 17, will meet with Virginia’s senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; attend policy addresses by senators and members of the Cabinet; tour government facilities, and sit down with a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
“David and Caleb have demonstrated an impressive commitment to scholarship and community service, and we are excited to welcome them to Washington in March as they pursue their interests in public policy and government,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine in a joint press release. “We are proud the Senate Youth Program allows us to offer a unique opportunity to outstanding high school students across Virginia who are interested in public service careers.”
And a career in public service is just where Cohn sees himself down the road.
“I’d like to work in government one day in some capacity, maybe work in an institution that studies policy or does research on policy or work in the government itself,” Cohn said.
Cohn was chosen for the program by the Virginia Department of Education, whose selection criteria included community service, academic performance and participation in extracurricular activities.
An avid cross-country runner, Cohn also plays in CHS’ orchestra, is on the Quiz Bowl team and serves as president of the Young Liberals club.
Alan Robinson, a government teacher and Quiz Bowl sponsor, said Cohn is more than deserving of the experience.
“It’s active curiosity; he’s not just gathering facts for a test or for a quiz,” Robinson said, noting that he and Cohn email about current political events. “And he’s asking questions, not only about how government works, but about some of the ethical questions behind it.”
What’s more, Robinson said, Cohn’s experience will benefit all of his fellow students upon his return.
“I enjoy it when any of my students dive in, get firsthand experience and tell us about it,” Robinson said. “Everything from the nuts and bolts of how things work to some of the colorful details that make it more interesting to people.”
Cohn, who plans to study economics in college, said he’s looking forward to meeting the students from other states and to asking Sens. Kaine and Warner about their feelings on the current condition of government in the United States.
“There’s a lot of underhanded and shady stuff in government, and I feel like a lot of [politicians’] efforts aren’t directly involved in creating policy to help people. So I kind of want to hear their opinions about a piece of policy that they’re working on that they think is helping people,” Cohn said.
The program runs from March 7-14.