Severna Park student wins week on Capitol Hill

Alex McGrath WSeverna Park High School junior Alex McGrath was selected to spend a week earlier this month hobnobbing with U.S. senators, congressmen, Supreme Court judges, top bank executives and even the President of the United States.

He was one of two students from Maryland and 104 across the country to take part in the U.S. Senate Youth Program March 5-12. He was recommended by a teacher and nominated by his principal, then went through a rigorous testing and interview process before being selected for the program — which also comes with a $5,000 scholarship. (During the week, however, the students learned the scholarship had been boosted to $10,000.)

“It was super difficult,” McGrath says of the vetting process. “I'm surprised I got past the test, let alone the interview.”

His teacher, Barbara Segnatelli, however, isn't surprised.

“Alex is a natural politician. ... He is brilliant,” she says. “He is knowledgeable about U.S. and world events, can speak confidently to adults, and would make the most of the opportunity. The qualifications for this award literally describe Alex.”

Alex joined Matthew Saxton, of Sykesville, as a delegate in the program’s 54th annual Washington Week. The intensive weeklong study of the federal government aims to increase students' knowledge and understanding of the American political process and to help them develop a lifelong commitment to public service. Transportation and all expenses were provided by the Hearst Foundations, which also provides each student with the $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs.

“I have been fascinated with public service, government and politics from a young age,” Alex says. “I'd like to be a Supreme Court justice or Solicitor General of the U.S.”

His dad is in the military, and Alex has moved seven times and lived in six different places, he says. He used this experience during his interview to explain why he would be the best representative in Maryland for the program.

“Maryland is called Little America and in my military life, I've experienced a lot of America,” he explains. “I basically represent the heterogeneous population of Maryland because of the different people I've met and the places I've been.”

Alex — who was an Eagle Scout at age 13, is first vice president of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, and a member of Anne Arundel County Schools Superintendent George Arlotto's Teen Advisory Committee — was excited to meet the other students in the program and do some networking.

The schedule includes visits to the Department of Justice, NASA, The World Bank, the Pentagon, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the White House and talks by senators, a Supreme Court justice, top executives, the secretary of defense, secretary of homeland security, and even the chance to meet President Barack Obama.

By Betsy Stein