By Sarah Lang The Lebanon Reporter
---- — Lebanon — A Lebanon High School junior has been selected as one of only two Indiana students to have the opportunity to spend a week in Washington, D.C. as part of the United States Senate Youth Program.LHS Junior Class President Justin Garrard applied for the program after learning about it from some friends he made in the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership last summer.“I read through the program and thought it was pretty cool, that it would be worthwhile,” Garrard said. “I was pleasantly surprised I was selected.”Ten finalists from the state of Indiana were selected, Garrard being one of only two high school juniors, after applying with a resume and an essay on due process. The finalists then had to take an exam, consisting of multiple choice, essay and an interview portion. Garrard and Eashan Kumar of Munster were selected as the two students to participate by the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction.“This is quite an honor for me to be one of only two students from the state selected,” Garrard said. “I’m grateful to my school leaders and the state superintendent for having the faith in me to represent Indiana at this prestigious event, which will be a great learning opportunity.”LHS Principal Kevin O’Rourke said he is very proud of Garrard, who is a hard worker and a young man of integrity and great character.“When you see someone with so much talent, you want to see them reach their potential,” he said. “And Justin is definitely doing that. He will be very successful one day.”The intense study of federal government will be from March 8 to 15 in Washington, D.C. The students will attend meetings and briefings with the U.S. president, senators and congressional staff and will meet a Supreme Court justice. They will also tour historical sites and monuments.
Garrard is excited to meet a justice and to spend time sitting in on Senate addresses.“We get to sit where they are sitting, making decisions for our country,” he said. “I thought that was one of the coolest parts. And I am very honored to get to shake Mr. Obama’s hand.”But perhaps what Garrard is most excited about, he said, is meeting other like-minded students. Those attending the program have set up a Facebook page, where they go from having spirited debates on national policy to talking about their favorite video games, Garrard said.
As part of being selected, Garrard also received a $5,000 scholarship for undergraduate studies. It’s the first scholarship he has received, he said. He hopes to incorporate both of his interests in a future career — technology and government — into a job in cyber security for the government. Right now, he is really into Purdue University, he said, which might upset his Indiana University graduate father.
Garrard has been his class president for the last three years. He ran for class president in eighth grade but lost. That year, he decided he wasn’t as involved as he wanted to be, so he ran again as a freshman. He hasn’t yet decided whether he will run for senior class president or student body president next year. He said he enjoys government because of the public service aspect.“I hope to continue in public service,” he said. “On a national scale, it gets a little daunting. You see all the mudslinging. But I might run for a local public office someday.”The USSYP was created in 1962 and is sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by the Hearst Foundation. Its purpose is to increase young Americans understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and lifelong commitment to public service.“This is an extremely intense merit-based program and to have one of our students represent Indiana is quite an honor for Lebanon High School," O’Rourke said.
Lebanon Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor added: “It’s not only an honor to have Justin represent Lebanon High School, it’s a tribute to his outstanding abilities, his family, and the teachers who’ve helped develop his academic abilities.”Garrard has a 4.4 GPA and ranks in the top one percent of high school students. He’s also a member of student council, a football letterman, a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Ambassador and delegate to the Lugar Symposium for Tomorrow’s Leaders. He also participates in Key Club, Math Team, and the Computer Programming Club, and serves on the school newspaper staff. He is the son of Lebanon attorney Melissa Garrard and Jeff Garrard, a Rolls Royce employee.