NORMAN — Norman North High School student Ryan Chapman is concerned with more than just his weekend plans or the latest high school gossip. He spends his time thinking about how the health care system, college loans, interest rates and the debt ceiling will affect his generation in the long run.
As a result of his concern and insight into current polities, Chapman put his leadership abilities and government knowledge to the test and was selected as one of two Oklahoma high school students to serve as an Oklahoma delegate in the 52nd annual United States Senate Youth Program in March.
Chapman is the son of Lance and Brenda Chapman and a senior at Norman North.
Chapman will travel to Washington, D.C., and spend one week there March 8-15. He will attend meetings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, an ambassador and other top political and media figures.
Chapman also will get a behind-the-scenes look at places like the FBI, White House and Pentagon. All expenses for the trip are covered by The Hearst Foundations. Delegates also will receive $5,000 college scholarships from The Hearst Foundations.
Gloria Tso, from Bartlesville High School, was the other Oklahoma student selected.
One hundred and four delegates from every state, Washington, D.C., and U.S. military bases were selected to attend the youth program. Students who were chosen to be delegates must show strong leadership skills, volunteer regularly and be in the top 1 percent of their state’s high school juniors and seniors academically.
The goal of the program is to teach delegates about the importance of public service and encourage them to pursue it as a career and area of study.
Chapman said to be selected, he had to demonstrate involvement in a leadership position, take a government exam and interview with a panel of judges. The exam involved 20 true or false questions, 30 multiple choice questions and identification of Oklahoma and U.S. representatives.
After completing the exam, the top 10 students were selected and moved on to the interview round. The interview was the most nerve-wrecking part of the application process, Chapman said. A panel of five judges, including Kelly Curtright, OSDE director of social studies education in the Office of Instruction, asked Chapman questions such as, “What are the three biggest threats to world peace?”
“They wanted you to think on your feet and support your answer, no matter what that was,” he said. “I just went in and gave it my best. ... We were really happy and pleasantly surprised when I got it. I know it made my mom proud to see me excel in something that’s her expertise.”
Chapman is the treasurer of the Young Democrats Club and the president of the Socialist Youth Club at Norman North. After high school graduation, he hopes to double major in civil engineering and sports management at the University of Oklahoma.
He said he became involved in the Young Democrats Club because he wants to encourage people his age to become involved in government.
“Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. We try to discuss what’s going on and stay informed,” he said.
The Socialist Youth Club educates students about what socialism really is because sometimes it gets lumped together with totalitarianism and communism, Chapman said.
“We talk about things like social security and health care,” he said.
Although his mom’s job position as social studies curriculum coordinator for Putnam City Schools may have influenced his interest in politics and history, Chapman said satirical shows about the news are what sparked his passion.
“Doing homework late at night, I’d flip on the ‘Colbert Report.’ After a while, I realized through all the satire, they were really giving the news,” he said. “My interest has also been fueled lately since I’ll be able to vote in the next presidential election.”
Being able to meet students across the country who are active in government is what Chapman said he is looking forward to most about his youth delegate experience, as well as having intelligent conversations with representatives.
“When I get our trip agenda, I’ll research reps so we can have in-depth conversations,” Chapman said. “I want to hear their comments on the culture in Washington that’s moved to gridlock. There’s no conversation. There’s no compromise anymore. Both parties are guilty of it. I want to know what it would take to get back, to reach across party lines.”
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