Silverthorne student represents Colorado in Senate Youth Program
March 28, 2017
One of two Colorado high school seniors selected to participate in the prestigious Senate Youth Program, Tye Brown-Wolf won't rule out a career in politics but said he'd like to find success in the private sector first.
A senior at The Peak School, Brown-Wolf lives in Silverthorne. Having served as a captain on the football and debate teams this year, this 17-year-old is about as well-rounded as they come.
During a recent sit-down with the Summit Daily News, Brown talked about some of his takeaways from the Senate Youth Program — which put him alongside 103 other student delegates — with two coming from each state and from Washington, D.C.
All expenses for the competitive merit-based program from March 4-11 were covered by the Hearst Foundations, and it brought together some of the country's most outstanding high school students for an intensive weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
The mission is to give the student delegates a bird's eye view of the American political process while instilling in them a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to covering all costs of the program, the Hearst Foundations provided each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship.
Along with Brown-Wolf, Maia Elizabeth Brockbank of Denver was also selected to represent Colorado. The pair were picked by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner.
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Brown-Wolf also serves as the chair of the Colorado Student Leaders Institute Student Advisory Board and as the director of outreach for state Rep. Millie Hamner's election campaign in addition to being a volunteer for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid. He is now taking accelerated college courses at Colorado Mountain College and the University of Colorado Denver. While still deciding which school he will attend after graduation, he plans to pursue a degree in economics.
Summit Daily News: Tell me about your first day in Washington for the Senate Youth Program. What's going through your mind? What's your initial impression?
Tye Brown-Wolf: The two biggest things that made the first impression: First is you get there and you are picked up by a military mentor; that's cool in and of itself. I was picked up from a lieutenant in the Coast Guard. The military mentors came from all branches of the military and range from different ranks.
And then you get there, you walk into the Mayflower Hotel and into the grand ballroom, and that's where they were registering everybody. Colorado was, I think, second-to-last to arrive so I walk in and there's a group of 100 kids there already.
So one, it was exciting, and two, it was intimidating.
SDN: As you're meeting all these students from all over the country, when they heard that you're from Colorado, were there any recurring topics that came up?
TWB: I think everybody wanted to talk about two things mainly. One, how is the marijuana thing going? And two, how is everybody there so fit? Those were the two things that kept coming up.
SDN: There is a long list of events for all of the things you were doing in D.C. What do you think was at the heart of this program? What did you get out of it?
TWB: Well I think the Hearst Foundations and the U.S. Senate are trying to immerse the top high schoolers in the country in what the federal government is. Because there are ways to go into state government, local government — I've done both those — but there are limited opportunities to experience the federal government. I think that this program aspires to do just that.
What I took away probably is not so much from the speakers we heard but meeting the other delegates. They made the trip. It's 100 other high schoolers just like me so that was super cool.
SDN: Through this program, you were fully immersed in the day-to-day operations of the U.S. Senate. What did you learn from this?
TBW: Going into it, I think all the students there were passionate about government and knew the process. You know, you have to do this to get a bill passed, you have to do this to for the Supreme Court to see a case.
But I took two things away from it. One, everyone there is super busy. I think often times there's this stigma, "Oh, Congress isn't doing anything." They are actually doing a lot. It just looks like they're doing nothing.
And also, that they are actually people. They can kind of get alienated from the public, but they want to talk with you, they are people, they got kids — and that was really refreshing.
SDN: Was there one thing that surprised you the most?
TBW: Yes. The 104 (delegates,) we're all 17, 18 or 19 years old — the perfect age for Bernie supporters. I thought coming into this that we were all going to be pretty liberal. However, that wasn't the case. It was about 50/50 for conservatives and liberals, and that really surprised me.
SDN: Which side do you fall on?
TBW: I'm generally liberal. It's hard because Republican and Democrat is just so overarching, but I'm generally liberal though I am fiscally conservative on some things.
SDN: As far as your trip goes, was there any one event or moment that stands out as, "Wow man, this was really worth it?"
TBW: Definitely. The one that sticks out the most is we're sitting in the Supreme Court chambers and Chief Justice John Roberts walks out from behind the curtain. That literally took my breath away.
SDN: I also saw you got to see Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump. Tell me about that.
TBW: Two things I took away from them. One, Trump in person is the exact same as he is on TV, so that was very much in line. And two, Pence is one of the most personable people that I've met. He and I disagree on policy, but he is very, very personable.
SDN: You were one of two students from Colorado chosen to participate in this. That's pretty special. Can you reflect on that?
TBW: Absolutely. It was an incredible honor and a privilege, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity. I think the other Colorado delegate that went, she is also incredibly talented, gifted and accomplished. Everybody there was. Seeing people like that was humbling, and it was a cool way to step out of Summit County.