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 Local Student Chosen as Rep for Senate Youth Program

A San Diego County student will represent California in a nationwide youth senate program, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

Sabrina Mia Van Zuiden, a senior at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista will be one the two students representing the state in the William Randolph Hearst Foundation's 52 annual United State Senate Youth Program.

Van Zuiden and the other student representative will receive a $5,000 scholarship and attend a one-week all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., in March as part of the program.

Torlakson also named two alternatives in case one or both delegates are unable to attend.

"Young people like these four are a big part of the reason I'm so optimistic about California's future," Torlakson said. "They combine a natural curiosity and care for the world around them with hard work and support from their schools and communities. I'm proud that they will be representing California in Washington."

Students must be nominated by their high school principal to participate in the program. A selection committee from the California Department of Education reviewed eligible nominees, and Torlakson selected the awardees based on the quality of the application, high academic achievement, interpersonal and communication skills, knowledge of American government and U.S. history, involvement in school and community activities, demonstrated qualities of leadership, extracurricular activities, and service to the community.

Van Zuiden is vice president of the Associated Student Body, a student representative to the School Site Council, and for the past two years, president of the Hilltop High United with Uganda club, which raises funds for a sister school in Kampala, Uganda. She has been a member of the Academic League team since her freshman year, serving as president in her junior year. She has also been a library volunteer, an elementary and high school tutor, and a San Diego County Registrar of Voters volunteer.

In her junior year, she was presented with the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award through the University of Rochester for "demonstrated commitment to understanding and addressing difficult social issues, leadership and dedication to community action" in addition to her strong grades and rigorous courses. She was one of six students to represent America at the International Youth Forum, a leadership conference on Jeju Island, South Korea.

With a 4.34 grade point average, Van Zuiden is an AP Scholar with Distinction and was awarded a certificate of excellence by her high school after scoring a top score of 5 on all of her AP exams.

She hopes to pursue undergraduate studies in sociology and business at the University of California, Berkeley. "From there, I'd like to go on to earn a master's degree in sociology and participate in research, specifically concerning the human trafficking issue growing in our country," she wrote in her USSYP application.

(Information courtesy of the California Department of Education.)