Chris Schulz Published

Students Selected For Senate Youth Program

FILE - Sunrise at the U.S. Capitol, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022 in Washington. The House and the Senate are set to pass an overhaul of the Electoral Count Act, the arcane election law that then-President Donald Trump tried to subvert after his 2020 election defeat. Democrats and Republicans have been working on the legislation since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, where Trump supporters echoing his false claims of widespread election fraud interrupted the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

Two West Virginia student leaders will be traveling to the nation’s capital this March to study the American political processes. 

Each year, two high school juniors or seniors are selected from each state for the Senate Youth Program (USSYP) in Washington D.C. USSYP is an intensive week-long educational experience and scholarship sponsored by the United States Senate for outstanding high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in public service.

West Virginia’s delegates this year are Bryson Riggleman, a senior from Petersburg High School and Peyton Barker, a senior from Greenbrier East High School. Both are student government presidents at their schools.

Riggleman said he’s excited to represent the state and learn up close about how the government works.

“It’s one thing to read something in a textbook,” he said. “It’s another thing to apply it outside of the textbook and into real life. I want to see what it looks like in real time, in real action.”

Barker said she is most looking forward to meeting and learning from fellow student leaders from across the country.

“Every person has so many different things to offer,” she said. “I really just want to work on my ability as a leader, and just learn from others. That way going forward, whether I’m an engineer, a politician, helping middle school students or raising my kids, I know that I’ve been fully equipped.”

A young man smiles for a photo while wearing a formal suit.
Bryson Riggleman
A young woman poses for a photo wearing a black dress.
Peyton Barker

Photos courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Education

Student delegates also receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship to the college or university of their choice. To qualify, students had to complete an application process that included essays, interviews, recorded speeches and an exam.

Joey Wiseman, director of student enrichment for the West Virginia Department of Education, said a selection team comprised of constitutional officers such as West Virginia Supreme Court justices and other professionals make the selection each year.

“It’s a great opportunity for students,” he said. “We’re always trying to promote students to look at different careers and we need public servants out there in the field.”

Petersburg High School Principal Amanda Campbell said although she was very proud of Riggleman, the credit is all his.

“This is what he has just been called to do,” she said. “He is always at the forefront of any kind of question about how we’re doing things with the school, how we can make them better. He is a proponent for his classmates when there’s something going on.”

Mike Vincent, school counselor at Greenbrier East High School, has similar praise for Barker.

“I’ve had other students that have made it to the interview process. I have not had any students that have gone on to be one of the two going to D.C.” he said. “She is the one that should have done this so I’m really glad that she did. Because it’s just such a perfect fit for her.”