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.