Sometimes, it’s good luck that changes one’s whole life, but much more often, it’s a clear objective and hard work.
It certainly was in the case of Stella Tallmon, a Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior selected for the U.S. Senate Youth Program. It’s a program for high school upperclassmen with an interest in public service to travel to D.C. for a week and interact with members of the Senate, Supreme Court, and other facets of the federal government.
“There’s so many talented kids in Alaska, I didn’t think I’d get the honor of going to the Senate Youth Program,” Tallmon said in an interview on Friday. “I’m just really excited to meet as many important people as I can learn about their jobs.”
Tallmon had to apply, and be selected as JDHS’s representative before going on to compete with other Alaskan students to be selected as one of the state’s two representatives. The other selected student was Ezra Adasiak of Austin E. Lathrop High School in Fairbanks, a junior. Only 104 students are selected: two from each state, two from D.C., and two from Department of Defense schools. Should Tallmon or Adasiak not be able to make the trip, two alternates were named as well: Jakob Wade of North Pole High School and Keenan Miller of Thunder Mountain High School.
The students will travel to D.C. in March for a week, with all accommodations and travel paid for.
“I’m mostly excited to see the inner workings of D.C. and gain new perspectives and meet a lot of new people,” Tallmon said. “I’m hoping I can meet some of my idols: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin.”
The interest in politics is not new for Tallmon. She’s been interested in public service and politics since the 2016 election, she said. Tallmon has testified in front of the Alaska Legislature, taken part in rallies and protests, and is involved in student government.
“When the results of that election came back, I decided I needed to be more engaged in politics,” Tallmon said. “I needed to be more active in my community even though I couldn’t vote yet. It just kind of took off from there.”
This won’t be her first trip to D.C. Tallmon has been part of programs before that took her to D.C. and New York City for high schoolers with an interest in public service and international politics. Tallmon also participates in Model UN, and will travel to Anchorage in February to participate in that.
“I think Stella is really passionate about what she believes in,” said Cynthia Horwitz, the student council faculty advisor. “She’s very passionate. She’s committed. She takes action. She walks the talk.”
Tallmon’s dedication to her causes and plans to be involved in public service and politics made her a great fit for the scholarship program, which, in addition to the week trip to D.C., comes with a $10,000 scholarship, said JDHS principal Paula Casperson.
“I think for Stella a large draw was the opportunity,” Casperson said in an interview Friday. “Locally, she spends time following the Legislature, attending hearings and testifying for issues she feels is important. This is a bigger experience for what she wants to do.”
For Tallmon, it’s all part of the plan. She’s applying to colleges right now, aiming to study political science as a foundation for what comes next. Beyond college, she’s considering foreign service in the Middle East or law school, with the intention of someday becoming a policymaker.
“I feel like this program symbolizes how young people aren’t afraid to take matters into their own hands,” Tallmon said. “My generation is really stepping up.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.