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NEWS | March 14, 2023

W.Va. National Guardsman serves as military mentor for U.S. Senate Youth Program 2023

By Edwin Wriston West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Maj. Holli Nelson, the director of strategic communications and governmental affairs for the West Virginia National Guard, served as a military mentor for the 61st United States Senate Youth Program held March 4-10, 2023, in Washington, D.C. 

USSYP military mentors represent their individual Service components and serve as role models for the 104 student delegates, two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity. The DoD looks for military mentors who exhibit personal and professional excellence and have a passion for public service.

“Serving as a military mentor for the USSYP Washington Week has been one of the most rewarding and inspirational experiences of my military career,” stated Nelson. “I had the distinct honor of representing the National Guard to some of the best and brightest students our nation has to offer, but most importantly, forge bonds with them that will last a lifetime. They are the future leaders of our world, and I couldn’t be more proud to have had this truly life-changing experience.” 

“It was especially special to serve as a representative given the program’s support by West Virginia’s congressional delegation,” She continued. “Participating with our representative from the West Virginia Department of Education, Dustin Lambert, and having Sen. Shelley Moore Capito serve as the Republican Co-Chair and deliver remarks was a point of pride for the week’s events.”

During the weeklong event, student delegates were exposed to all facets of the U.S. government to include meeting Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the Senate Secretary and Parliamentarian, and Soledad O’Brien, among many others. Delegates also met with their congressional leaders and learned about the various interworking of the government through exposure to various agencies and institutions.

“West Virginia is filled with great leaders who set a great example for the rest of us, and Maj. Nelson is one of those leaders. I was so happy to see Maj. Nelson last week and to talk to her about her work in this program. I can think of no one better to have served as a mentor for our Senate Youth Program participants given her service to our country and lessons learned in the West Virginia National Guard,” Senator Capito said.

United States Senate Resolution 324 established USSYP in 1962 "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."

Annual DoD support of USSYP represents one of the longest-standing commitments of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to a national youth program. USSYP has been solely funded and administered since inception by The Hearst Foundations, a national philanthropic resource for organizations working in the fields of culture, education, health and social services.

“I would highly encourage any National Guard or active duty officer to apply to serve as a military mentor in the USSYP program; it is the privilege of a lifetime. I can’t say enough good things about the experience, exposure and most importantly, the impact you get to have on a group of highly intelligent and motivated young people who are inspired to make significant change in our communities and improve our democracy,” Nelson said.