West junior headed to the White House

Andrew Dong ’24 is one of two Iowa high school students selected for the United States Senate Youth Program.

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Krisha Kapoor

Andrew Dong ’24 poses with his certificate of invitation to the Senate Youth Program.

Krisha Kapoor, Print Co-Editor-In-Chief

In the cafeteria, orchestrating a blood drive, in discussions, advocating for mental health education, and now, in the White House, participating in the Senate Youth Program, are all places that you might find West junior Andrew Dong. 

Every year, the Iowa Department of Education selects two high schoolers to attend the United States Senate Youth Program. This program was established in 1962 by the U.S. Senate Resolution to provide a “Unique educational experience for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service.” Selected students will spend time in the White House and Capital Building discussing with politicians, attending meetings with Senators, and gaining an in-depth experience of political processes. In addition to the experience, students receive a $10,000 scholarship for their undergraduate education. 

“I’m looking forward to [being] surrounded by so many high-level individuals and to see the impact they have had in their communities,” Dong said. 

To receive this award, Dong applied and did an interview where he highlighted his work in mental health advocacy and volunteerism. 

Politicians have embodied the idea of service over self and the responsibility that they have toward others. So, in that sense, I strive to be like them. ”

— Andrew Dong '24

Specifically, Dong is a member of the University of Iowa Scanlan Center for School Mental Health Advisory Board. There, he works with mental health professionals to develop required mental health curricula for educators across the state. Additionally, Dong is the youngest person in Iowa certified in Mental Health First Aid. 

“[These experiences] offer insight on how I have educated myself on mental health…I hope to be a mental health policy change maker,” Dong said. 

In addition to working in mental health advocacy, Dong devotes time to the National Red Cross Youth Council to spread the mission of Red Cross. At West, Dong is the founder of the Red Cross Club. Last year the club organized a blood drive where 44 units were collected. 

Although Dong might not pursue politics in the future, he anticipates that his time in D.C. will be fruitful.

“Politicians have embodied the idea of service over self and the responsibility they have toward others. So, in that sense, I strive to be like them,” Dong said. 

Dong will be in Washington, D.C. March 4 through 11.