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Washington Power Brokers Prepare The Next Generation: The U.S. Senate Youth Program

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President Obama meets with 2012 US Senate Youth Delegates.
The United States Senate Youth Program
President Obama meets with 2012 US Senate Youth Delegates.

For 50 years, the Hearst Foundation has funded the United States Senate Youth Program. It's a week-long all-expense-paid visit to Washington D.C., providing 104 high school students with a $5,000 scholarship, as well as the chance to tour the buildings and meet the power brokers who make our country run.

Unlike just about any other Washington tour out there, this one includes private meetings with the Secretary of Defense, a Supreme Court Justice, and whenever possible, the President.

Alumni include Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

If you ask any of this year's student delegates, they'll tell you, a life in politics and public service isn't just a possibility. It's a certainty. Chris Sheppard, 17, from Reston, Va., says he's aiming to be the President.

Because of the fact that Sheppard looks stunningly like Barack Obama, it's fairly easy to imagine him as President. Another local delegate, Chris Jones from Northeast, D.C., says everyone's been having that same reaction.

"This whole week we've been urging this kid to run for President, and I want to say that in the future I will be voting for him," says Jones.

Sheppard laughs off the praise, as Jones explains, despite the fact neither delegate is eligible to be President for another 17 years, there's been a heated campaign running all week between Sheppard and Channing Ruff, a student from Georgia.

When asked about race, Ruff lowers his gaze to the floor, shaking his head with a smile. "I wouldn't say my heart's set on being President," he says. "Of course, if the opportunity ever presented itself, who wouldn't want to be President, right?"

Photos: Senate Youth Program

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