Gallatin High Youth Senators

Seniors Chase Casey and Melaina Springer are pictured at Gallatin High on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. Casey and Springer were the two U.S. youth senators chosen to represent Montana at the U.S. Senate Youth Program.

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Two Gallatin High School students were selected for the U.S. Senate Youth Program, marking one of the first times two students selected from Montana have come from the same high school.

Melaina Springer and Chase Casey, both seniors, will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and opportunities to meet with senators, cabinet members and officials from other federal agencies.

“I just want to learn more about what kind of legislation is affecting us and how it differs from other states,” Springer said.

Both students have been interested in government and politics for years.

Springer said she’s been in student government since middle school and is Gallatin High’s student body president.

“It’s really fascinating just looking at our current political climate and how divisive we are, just looking at all the factors that come into play from past legislation to Supreme Court decisions. It’s really interesting to live in this current climate and see everything that’s going on,” Casey said.

Lauren Covington, guidance counselor with Gallatin High, said she was initially confused when both Springer and Casey told her they had been selected because she didn’t think two students would be selected from the same school. Covington said the alternate youth senator was also selected from Gallatin High.

The Montana’s Office of Public Instruction, which facilitates the scholarship, when asked said it wasn’t aware of an instance when two students from the same school were picked.

“These exceptional students had the wholehearted support of the faculty and staff at Gallatin High School,” a spokesperson from OPI said in an emailed response.

To apply, each student submitted an essay application and then were selected for a 15-minute interview that included questions on government and current events.

“Anything and everything covering government was what was on the table so we had no idea what was going to be asked of us,” Casey said, adding he learned about Montana’s entire U.S. Senate history to prepare.

Both students worked closely with social studies teachers at Bozeman and Gallatin High to prepare by running through previous questions and mock interviews.

“Being asked questions (in the interviews) you might not know something about but being able to learn how to answer those questions even if you don’t know a lot of details was important,” Springer said.

Travis Monroe, a teacher at Gallatin High who helped prepare students for interviews, said it was a great opportunity for both students and more than they would be exposed to in a classroom.

“I’ve seen these two grow and having this initiative to go after this scholarship and then to get it. They worked hard. In those mock interviews we grilled them, asked them hard questions and then made them come back with better answers,” Monroe said. “I’m really proud and excited for them.”

Springer and Casey said they were thankful for the teachers in Bozeman schools for teaching engaging and interesting classes that help prepare students for opportunities like this.

While youth senators typically would travel to Washington for a week, it has been moved online for March 5-10, 2022 due to the pandemic. The students will still have the chance to interact with people throughout the federal government, including hearing from the vice president or president of the United States and a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The program offers delegates a chance to see our government’s operation first-hand and speak directly with the leaders of our country,” the OPI spokesperson said.

Springer and Casey will also get to talk with Montana Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester.

“That’s really cool because I don’t think a lot of people our age really get the opportunity to talk to people that have so much political power or such strong representation for us and it’s important to be knowledgeable about what they stand for and the things that we as Montanans believe in, seeing what their thoughts are on the issues,” Casey said.

Both students are still considering where to attend college next year, with Springer saying she’s interested in pursuing a career in the medical field and Casey saying he was planning entering the fields of climate change and renewable energies.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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