Hilo Student Leader Chosen for Washington DC Program

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Jessica Valdez. Courtesy photo.

Jessica Valdez, president of Hilo High’s Student Association, will head to Washington, D.C., in March for the 55th annual Washington Week.

Valdez and Matthew Darrah, president of Kalaheo High’s Student Association, were selected to represent Hawai‘i at the annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP).

Valdez serves as the chairperson of the Hawai‘i State Student Council. She was elected to this position to effect positive change and promote the voice of Hawai‘i’s public school students. At Hilo High, she has served as vice president, recording secretary and representative of her School Council. Valdez has also held a variety of leadership positions including chair of the Inter-Club Council, and secretary, treasurer and president of the Rainbow Friends Club, which raises money for and awareness about a local nonprofit sanctuary protecting, caring for and sheltering the community’s animals in need.


Darrah serves as sergeant at arms of the Hawai‘i State Student Council, the secretary of his school’s organization of clubs as well as a member and representative of state and district councils. He intends to attend the University of Florida to major in environmental studies and minor in political science, with the hopes of a career at the Environmental Protection Agency or an environmental institute.

Matthew Darrah. Courtesy photo.

“Congratulations to Jessica and Matthew for being selected for this prestigious program,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “This is a wonderful opportunity for these student leaders to see how their experience serving at their school and state councils could turn into a career in public service by seeing it firsthand in our nation’s capitol.”

The student delegates will receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Hearst Foundation and a trip to Washington, D.C. where they will tour the national monuments and museums, as well as have the opportunity to attend meetings and briefings with legislators, an ambassador to the U.S., a justice of the Supreme Court and other government leaders.


“I was honored to be part of the program last year,” said Zachary Espino, 2016 USSYP Hawai‘i delegate. “It gave me a newly found sense of confidence and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I’m applying in Hawai‘i as a college student and intern at the legislature. My advice to Jessica and Matthew would be to take a lot of notes, and listen and engage in conversations with the other delegates. These are students who share the same passion and drive, and are valuable connections that you may rely on down the road.”

The USSYP was established in 1962 by U.S. Senate Resolution, is a unique educational experience for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service.

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