McDow ’16 represents NC in US Senate Youth Program

Christine McDow ’16 meets NC Senator Richard Burr in Washington, DC

During her junior year at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Christine McDow ’16 was chosen to represent the state of North Carolina at the 53rd United States Senate Youth Program. Now she is bringing her passion for public service back to campus and making a difference in her community.

McDow was appointed as a student representative to the NCSSM Service Learning Board as a junior. A native of Wilmington, NC, she also serves on her county’s local Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, and she initiated a successful statewide letter-writing campaign focused on making NC legislators aware of the importance of 4-H.

McDow learned of the Senate youth program, a leadership education program for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service, through a former NC delegate. As one of 104 students nationwide selected, she traveled to Washington, D.C., last spring to participate in a week of policy sessions, briefings, and meetings with political and governmental leaders. McDow was able to sit in on policy addresses by Senators, Cabinet members, officials from the Departments of State and Defense, and directors of other federal agencies. She also got to meet President Barack Obama as well North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.

McDow says the best part about participating in the program was the people. “Conversations never ended in consensus,” McDow says. “Instead, students challenged each others’ opinions. At one point, I had almost an hour-long conversation with a student from the other side of the political spectrum on the meaning of citizenship, tax theory, and morality. At the end of the conversation, neither of us were upset. Instead we walked away with new pride in our country and its potential.”

McDow has already put her experiences in D.C. into action back at NCSSM, founding the school’s chapter of Junior State of America, a national civic education organization whose mission is to strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society. At NCSSM, the group aims to break down the barriers between disciplines, such as STEM topics (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), humanities, or politics. “Our goal as a chapter is to teach our students that even though they are interested in STEM, they still have the right to a place in the political conversation.” The group held their first presidential candidate debate-watching party on October 13 with a turnout of almost 50 students. Other events will include hosting debates for the students and voter registration drives.

McDow is specifically interested in “national service initiatives promoting healthier, safer communities across the nation.” Despite working in an appointed position during her time on her county’s local Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, she says, “I did not realize that I was working in politics until recently. I have really enjoyed serving in my local government, and although I do not plan to major in political science, I do hope to serve in my local government, most likely in another appointed position.”


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