Glendale — Nicolet High School senior Ananda Deacon will soon head to Washington, D.C., to learn from lawmakers, cabinet members and other high-ranking government officials.
Deacon was one of two students in Wisconsin and 104 students in the country selected for the prestigious U.S. Senate Youth Program. From March 4 through March 11, Deacon will attend meetings and briefings with senators, members of the House of Representatives, Congressional staff, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media.
In addition to the fully-funded week in Washington, each student is provided with a $10,000 college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs.
Even though her social studies teachers recommended she apply for the opportunity, Deacon said she was reluctant to apply when she learned that applicants must hold a leadership position in an organization that relates to government, public affairs or community service. She is active in at least five student organizations, but she wasn't sure her leadership in the ACLU Student Alliance and Black Student Union would measure up to the all of the student council presidents applying from around the state.
Her social studies teachers encouraged her to apply for the opportunity, noting that her involvement in extra-curricular organizations comes from an authentic interest in social justice, as opposed to a need to rack up resume-builders for college applications.
"The U.S. Senate Youth Program fit Ananda perfectly from an academic perspective, an interest perspective and an energy perspective," said teacher Mark Schill. "She's very self-deprecating, but it is important for us that she understand that these are the types of aspirations she should have. We as a (social studies) department wanted to find people who are interested in making social justice and social change, and then show them that this is a way they can go down that path."
Deacon, who is president of Nicolet's ACLU Student Alliance, was recognized in November — along with her classmate Jacob Newman — with the ACLU Youth Civil Libertarians of the Year award. The group holds discussions, poetry slams, and for the first time this year, launched a program that encourages students to sit with classmates outside of their friend group.
Deacon is the co-founder and vice president of the Black Student Union, which is in the process of planning a week of solidarity events during Black History Month. She also co-founded an art club that creates artwork for organizations in the community. She is also active in Badger Girls State, Model United Nations, Gay/Straight Alliance, the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society. She also participates in Mock Trial, which has inspired her to pursue a career in law.
Deacon said her interest in politics was sparked in her freshman year social studies class. She enjoys listening to NPR, reading articles and having political conversations with her parents. She said she will most likely study political science in college.
"I love studying how people interact with each other and the division of power," she said. "With these rules that we make for each other, there is this inherent inequity between the people. And I just want to crush it."
When she visits D.C., she is hoping to meet as many people as she can. Her friends are already asking her to collect autographs of Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). She is hoping to learn more about the inner machinations of the federal government and lawmaking.
"I'm hoping I can dive into it, find out as much as I can and then come home and continue to learn more about it," she said. "I want to be as nosy as I can so I can get the most out of the experience."