Two Outstanding DoDEA Pacific Students Selected to Prestigious USSYP

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Undated photo of Kubasaki High School student Makayla Palazzo who was recently selected as one of only two DoDEA delegates for the 2013 United States Senate Youth Program. (Photo courtesy of Kubasaki High School/Released)
Undated photo of Kubasaki High School student Makayla Palazzo who was recently selected as one of only two DoDEA delegates for the 2013 United States Senate Youth Program. (Photo courtesy of Kubasaki High School/Released)

Two Outstanding DoDEA Pacific Students Selected to Prestigious USSYP

by: Charles Hoff, DoDEA Pacific | .
Public Affairs Officer | .
published: December 22, 2012

OKINAWA, JAPAN — Exceptional academic performance and proven leadership abilities propelled two DoDEA Pacific high school scholars past their peers to be named delegates to the 2013 United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP).

Makayla Palazzo, a senior at Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan, and Danari White, a junior at Seoul American High School in South Korea were competitively selected from among hundreds of applicants from across DoDEA’s global school system.

Each year, the USSYP brings together 104 of the most promising high school student leaders from across the country. Interested students undergo a robust application process including a written application, rigorous public affairs exam, collecting multiple recommendation letters, and providing ample evidence of academic and leadership excellence. Each year, the program selects only two representatives from each state, the District of Columbia and DoDEA.

Palazzo is a straight-A student and “AP Scholar” having earned top marks on several Advanced Placement exams last school year. She is also a varsity athlete and served as a delegate to the Far East Harvard Model Congress in Singapore last school year. Palazzo is currently the student body president and very active in organizations such as National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. She also volunteers in the community as a veterinary technician at a local animal hospital.

According to several Kubasaki HS teachers, Palazzo is a gifted student and natural leader. “She has honed the skills needed to lead effectively including soliciting input from fellow officers, delegating tasks when needed, and most importantly staying flexible and levelheaded when a crisis occurs,” said Science Teacher Lonnae Calvin, “I have also been impressed by her ability to accept constructive criticism and to make modifications in her leadership to grow as a leader and an individual.”

AP Biology Teacher and National Honor Society Sponsor Jillian Eastman also made a strong case for Palazzo in recommending her to the USSYP selection committee, “Makayla is a mature, extremely bright young lady that will succeed at whatever she pursues.” Eastman wrote that the Palazzo is exceptionally capable of balancing a demanding academic schedule with extra-curricular, leadership and volunteer activities.

A classically trained dancer and musician, White is the Seoul American HS Junior Class Representative, an officer for Model United Nations, a member of the National Honor Society, and active in Girl Scouts. She is also an All-American cheerleader and was voted Homecoming Princess.

Science Teacher Donald Williams believes White is a fitting choice for the USSYP, “Danari White is a tremendous student and conscientious young lady who will make a huge positive impact on society through hard work, imagination, compassion, and dedication.”

AP and Foreign Language Teacher David Clausen agreed, “I am very pleased and fortunate to have a student of Danari’s caliber in both my French and AP English classes. She performs at a very high level as a student while demonstrating the most positive traits as a citizen as well; she serves as a good role model for her peers.”

White also enjoys high praise from fellow classmates like Erika Yang, “Danari is such a sweet, kind, wonderful [and] smart girl.”

As USSYP delegates, Palazzo and White have each earned a $5000 scholarship and all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. March 9-16, 2013. The USSYP delegates will meet with President Barack Obama, top congressional leaders, a Supreme Court Justice, and other senior government leaders. As representatives of DoDEA, Palazzo and While will also visit the Pentagon and meet with high-level officials from the Department of Defense.

The purpose of the USSYP is to strengthen student interest in public service by providing an in-depth exploration of the federal government in general and the U.S. Congress in particular. Delegates also learn about the key interrelationships among the three branches of the U.S. government that provide the balance of power necessary for an enduring democracy.

Celebrating 50 years of inspiring students toward public service, the USSYP has amassed an impressive cadre of over 5000 alumni including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and other influential leaders in both the public and private sectors.

The selection of both delegates from the Pacific is a testament to the caliber of students attending DoDEA Pacific high schools according to DoDEA Pacific Senior Civilian Leader Martha Brown, “These exceptional students embody the impressive spirit, talent, scholarship and leadership qualities that demonstrate the capacity of our students to compete at any level.”

For Palazzo, her selection holds special significance as the last Pacific USSYP delegate was also a Kubasaki HS student. Selected in 2010 while completing his senior year at Kubasaki, Joshua Jones is currently attending Stanford University.

Palazzo plans to attend Columbia University and pursue a career in diplomacy with the U.S. Department of State or the United Nations. White plans to pursue degrees in political science and French at the University of Central Florida and a law degree from Emory University School of Law. She also plans to work in international relations.

About the United States Senate Youth Program:

The United States Senate Youth Program, established in 1962 by U.S. Senate Resolution, is a unique educational experience for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service. The annual program will be held in Washington, D.C., from March 9 - 16, 2013 . Two student leaders from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity will spend a week in Washington experiencing their national government in action. Student delegates will hear major policy addresses by Senators, cabinet members, officials from the Departments of State and Defense and directors of other federal agencies, as well as participate in a meeting with a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. All transportation, hotel and meal expenses will be provided by The Hearst Foundations. In addition, each delegate will also be awarded a $5,000 College Scholarship for undergraduate studies, with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science.


About DoDEA Pacific:

The first organized schools for the children of U.S. military personnel serving in the Pacific were established in 1946 during post-World War II reconstruction.

Throughout the decades, DoD schools evolved to become a comprehensive and high-performing K-12 school system solely dedicated to educating the children of America’s heroes. Today, DoDEA Pacific’s 49 schools serve over 23,500 children of U.S. military and eligible DoD civilian personnel families stationed throughout the Pacific theater. The DoDEA Pacific teaching, administrative and school support team includes more than 3,300 full-time professionals. The schools are geographically organized into four districts: Guam, Japan, Okinawa and South Korea.

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