Pine Belt News, Hattiesburg

Petal’s Taylor Selected For United States Senate Youth Program

By Haskel Burns

Shortly after applying for the United States Senate Youth Program – an intensive week-long educational experience for outstanding high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in public service – Petal High School junior Archer Taylor received a phone call from one of the program’s state representatives.

Although Taylor thought that call was to inform him he had been rejected for the program, it turned that he was selected from among Mississippi’s top student leaders to be a part of the endeavor – making him one of only two students in the state to earn that honor. Taylor, along with Jacob Pearson of Alcorn Central High School, will join U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith in representing Mississippi during the upcoming 59th annual USSYP Washington Week.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity; I think it’ll be a lot of fun,” said Taylor, who is the son of Vicki and Richard Taylor. “I get to meet the President – at least that’s what they said on the website – and I know I’ll get to meet Clarence Thomas, who’s an associate justice (on the U.S. Supreme Court), and a bunch of other high-ranking government officials.

“I was proud to find out that I was selected as a delegate. It was very shocking, but then after that I was very excited.”

Each year, the USSYP chooses two students from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. The program is a study of the federal government and the individuals who lead it, and is aimed at providing student delegates with a more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifetime commitment to public service.

During the program week, which will be held virtually this year, the student delegates will attend online meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies and senior members of the national media, among others. 

Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection; this year’s Mississippi delegates and alternates were designated by Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education. 

“I’ve always had encouraging teachers, and they’ve just been really helpful in guiding us through the process, like getting us prepared for college, finding these programs and getting scholarships,” Taylor said. “So really, a lot of it is the teachers, who are good at teaching confidence, but also are good at encouraging you to do things such as this.”

Matt Dillon, superintendent of the Petal School District, said the opportunity will be a great one for Taylor, especially as his passion lies in that particular field.

"We're very excited for Archer to be in the national spotlight with this award," Dillon said. "He's heavily involved in activities at the high school; he's just an excellent student, and it could not happen to a better student and his family.

"This will be a wonderful experience for Archer, and we're just so proud of him and the great student that he is."

In addition, each member of the 104-student delegation will receive a $10,000 undergraduate scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs. In Taylor’s case, that scholarship will go toward the United States Air Force Academy, where he plans to study to become a test pilot.

“I’ve always been kind of interested in the Air Force, but I want to be a test pilot,” Taylor said. “To be a pilot, you have to be an officer, and I thought what better way to both get a college degree in aerospace engineering and also become an officer in the Air Force?

“I learned about it a long time ago, and it became my passion over time. Combine that with rocketry, like new space tech, and that’s where I am today.”

Taylor serves as the president of the National Honor Society and as a representative on the Mississippi Superintendent Advisory Council. He also was selected to serve as a United States Senate Page, and participates in multiple clubs revolving around government and business, such as the Vox Populi club and the Future Business Leaders of America.