BRUNSWICK — As the student representative to the Brunswick School Board, Julia Brown knows a lot about politics for a high school senior.
But after a week-long trip to Washington, D.C., next spring, she’ll be a pro at national politics, too.
Brown is one of two Maine high school students selected to represent the state in the U.S. Senate Youth Program.
Brown, 17, and Adam Cohen, of Scarborough, will travel to Washington in March along with student delegates from around the country. The students will meet with high-level officials, including the president, senators and Supreme Court justices, and tour the capital. Brown will also receive a $5,000 college scholarship.
As part of the application process, Brown took a two-hour test on U.S. history and politics that she described as similar to the SAT. Because she found out about the program only two weeks before the test date, she didn’t have much time to memorize famous quotes, events and political figures.
“I literally crammed like it was a bar exam,” Brown said.
Despite the short time frame, Brown was one of the top nine scorers on the test. All Maine high school students with experience in school or local government were eligible to apply.
She and the other finalists were invited to Augusta on Nov. 18 for a “judging day.”
Brown said she had no idea what to expect. She had about 10 minutes to throw together a speech about the greatest problem in the nation and what’s being done about it. She chose to talk about partisanship in Washington and Occupy Wall Street.
After her speech, she watched all the other finalists present what they’d come up with.
“I lucked out because the kids who got there were super-brainiacs, and I’m an actress and a speaker. So when it came to the speech they were more content dense, but I knew how to present myself,” she said.
Judges, including representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, selected Brown and Cohen based on their performance in the day’s three tasks: public speaking and speech writing, debate and a detailed interview.
Two weeks ago, Brown received a letter informing her she’d been selected. When she opened it, she said, she “freaked out.”
“I danced around the house. I was jumping around,” Brown recalled.
She said she is most excited about meeting President Obama, and hopes to meet Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
But she’s also looking forward to meeting the other student delegates and hearing about how they run their high school student governments.
Brown hopes to share her experience in the nation’s capitol with the student representatives at Brunswick High School to improve the quality of student government.
And maybe, one day, she’ll run for elected office herself, although Brown said she’d never want to be involved at a national level.
“I’d always want to be a school board member or a municipal board member,” she said. “I’m just a small-town girl.”
Brunswick High School senior Julia Brown gives a speech in Augusta on Nov. 18 as part of an eight-hour judging day for finalists to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate Youth Program in March 2012. Brown and Adam Cohen, of Scarborough, were selected for the program, which includes a week-long trip to Washington, D.C., and a $5,000 college scholarship.