Hank Phillips (File photo courtesy West Virginia Legislative Photography)

Local youth selected to participate in prestigious U.S. Senate Youth program’s Washington Week event

BUCKHANNON – In 2023, the state of West Virginia will send two representatives to the United States Senate Youth Program during the Washington Week event, which takes place March 4-11 in Washington, D.C. 

And one of those representatives is a familiar face: Buckhannon-Upshur High School Senior and Student Body President Henry ‘Hank’ Phillips.

Hank said this is the 61st year for the program that enables students from all 50 states to travel to the nation’s capital, where they get to meet with members of the U.S. Congress and representatives from the Executive and Judicial branches of the federal government.

“We will get to discuss different issues and debate different topics about both domestic and international problems,” Hank said. “It will be a great resource to meet with world leaders who not only affect our country but our state as well.”

Hank said he applied to be considered for the program, one of the major qualifications for which is having leadership skills.

“Usually, the leadership experience comes through the National Honor Society or Student Council,” Hank explained. “After you prove you are qualified, there is a test you take which consists of questions about major events in United States history. Next, there is a written essay, and the prompt for the essay was about the distribution of powers within the three branches of government of the United States. They look at the tests and the essay and choose six finalists. From the six finalists, we entered an interview process.”

He said the interview process had three phases which included ‘get-to-know-you’ questions, followed by a presentation on the effects of domestic politics and American ideals on international relations. He said the final phase consisted of answering general questions about the presentations.

“Several members of the West Virginia Supreme Court were members of the final interview process and that was really great,” Hank said.

Hank said he was thrilled when he found out he was selected to be one of the finalists and would represent West Virginia at Washington Week.

“I was ecstatic,” he said. “I have been working so hard all four years in high school and getting involved in politics and really, I felt this would be the next step in developing a future political career for myself.”

“I knew this would be an amazing opportunity and I knew I wanted to take the chance,” Hank added. “I am really glad the time I put into this paid off and I realize I could not have accomplished this goal without the support of my parents and the staff at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and everybody who was a part of my application and references.”

He is the son of Greg Phillips and Genevia Jenkins of Buckhannon.

“This past year, I served as the state Student Council Senior High Council representing all student councils in West Virginia,” Hank said. “I am currently the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Student Body President and Youth Leadership Association President for B-UHS. I also do music and I am in the Marching Band where I am the woodwinds band commander and clarinet leader.”

Within the community, Hank serves on the Buckhannon Youth Council and tries to remain involved in local issues in the school.

Hank has aspirations of going into politics.

“I still plan to go into politics,” he said. “I hope to study political science and international relations in college next year before attending law school before jumping into my political career.”

Hank offered some encouragement and advice for young people like himself who want to get more involved in their communities.

“I think there is a big misconception that a lot of people think that you have to be directly involved in legislation to be involved, but I think the biggest thing is to be an active citizen in your county and state and the county,” he said. “I think it is important to be educated on the topics you believe in and it is important to make informed voting decisions and it is very important to get out and vote – that is a big issue today because people need to definitely go out and vote and keep updated with politics.”

As far as succeeding in life, Hank said he hopes folks his age will find something they are passionate about and run with it.

“If you’re passionate about helping people in the medical field, go do the best you can do in that field,” he said. “If you want to be a plumber or a welder, go do that and be the best version of yourself you can be.”

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