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Military Mentors Selected to Serve as Student Role Models

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The Defense Department announced the 12 military officers selected to serve as military mentors in support of the United States Senate Youth Program's 60th Annual Washington Week, which will be held virtually March 6-9.  

This youth program is for outstanding high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers in public service, said Melanie Fonder Kaye, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for strategic engagement, whose directorate oversees DOD's annual USSYP support. 

Two male service members shake hands.
Honor Distinction
Coast Guard Lt. Nathan M. Borders, right, is congratulated by Army Col. John De Suggs Jr., as Borders receives the Gen. George C. Marshall Honor Distinction, a Master in Operational Studies, and a Command and General Staff Officer Course diploma in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., May 25, 2021.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Vladimir Varlack
VIRIN: 210525-O-D0439-001

Through the competitive selection of a diverse team of officers to serve as mentors, DOD aims to give the students an understanding of its mission, people and interrelationships with the other branches of government, and the importance of public service, she said. 

The program's military mentors serve as role models for the 104 student delegates — two from each state, the District of Columbia and the DOD Education Activity, she said. 

They exemplify the highest standards of decorum and protocol, facilitate logistics and movements, and assist the program's staff with safety and accountability, Kaye said. 

"This is an extraordinary group of officers representing the broadest range of military skills, geographic assignments and leadership experiences drawn from a pool of exceptional and diverse candidates. This year’s student delegates will learn firsthand from these incredible service members about their military, the people who serve and what it means to serve — essential skills for this next generation of public servants," she said. 

A soldier addresses other soldiers under mesh netting in a field.
Cannon Crew
Army Capt. Catherine Grizzle, right, talks with cannon crewmembers at a firing point at Fort Sill, Okla., June 24, 2021. Grizzle is among the military officers selected to serve as military mentors supporting the United States Senate Youth Program's 60th Annual Washington Week.
Photo By: Army Spc. Matthaeus Fabian
VIRIN: 210624-A-D0439-101Y

"For 60 years, the most talented high school students in the nation have honed their passion and skills for public service through the experience of the United States Senate Youth Program. The bonds that are formed between the students and their military mentors are a pillar of the program," Rayne Guilford, program director said.  

"Each year, the military officers selected to serve as mentors are exemplars of leadership, excellence and dedication. Through this profound connection [that is] based on mutual admiration, learning and inspiration, the students see the true meaning of service to country, and the officers feel renewed hope for the future," Guilford said. 

Two airmen pose for a photo just outside a doorway.
Picture Time
Air Force Capt. Matthew Pellegrine, left, 49th Wing special victims’ counsel, and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rochelle Schwarz, 49th Wing special victims’ paralegal, pose outside the new Special Victims’ Counsel office on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Jan. 11, 2019. The office offers confidential legal advice to victims of an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He is one of the military mentors this year at the United States Senate Youth Program.
Photo By: Air Force Airman Autumn Vogt
VIRIN: 190111-F-HQ214-1011M

Speakers for the program generally include the highest level elected and appointed officials in each branch of government. The students are given the opportunity to learn from these speakers through extensive question and answer sessions, she said. 

Last year, Kathleen Hicks, deputy secretary of defense, told the students: "A position in public service has meant working with the best colleagues in the world and having the unique opportunity to tackle complex issues and problem sets that make a difference in the lives of the American people. I hope some of you will take this path. The nation needs your talents."

Retired Navy captain and former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly told the students last year: "Being a good leader is knowing who your teammates are and trying to elevate them. Space flight is really the biggest team sport that there is." 

In Their Own Words 

Two military personnel stand next to president Obama in the Oval Office.
Departure Photo
Current Coast Guard Lt. Cmdrs. Roberto C. Concepcion and Megan D. Concepcion are seen in a photo with then-President Barack Obama at the White House, Aug. 27, 2014.
Photo By: Chuck Kennedy, White House
VIRIN: 140827-O-D0439-100

"I wanted to serve as a military mentor to positively influence and inspire our youth[s] to actively engage in the civic issues that affect them though public service,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Roberto C. Concepcion, this year's senior military mentor. 

"Mentoring these future leaders means that I will have the opportunity to inspire them to grow their skills, make better decisions, and gain new perspectives so that they reach their full potential. I hope to cultivate a lifelong mentoring relationship with this prestigious group of delegates and learn more about how they plan to solve the issues that deeply affect them," he said. 

A service member poses for a photo.
Air Force Inspiration
Air Force Captain Nitin Prashar, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron executive officer, poses for his official photograph at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Aug. 16, 2017. He is one of the military mentors this year at the United States Senate Youth Program.
Photo By: D.P. Heard, Air Force
VIRIN: 170816-O-D0439-001

"A leader's number one job is to develop other leaders. These world-class delegates deserve every ounce we can pour into them," Air Force Capt. Nitin Y. Prashar, the assistant senior military mentor, said. 

"The delegates possess seriously brilliant minds and beautiful souls — mentoring the next generation of America’s leaders is a powerful reminder that we need to be more to give more. I hope to extend this mentor-mentee relationship from a week to a lifetime," he added. 

Other military mentors are: Air Force Maj. Matthew A. Pellegrine, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Megan D. Concepcion, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Alexandra S. Miller, Army Capt. Catherine M. Grizzle, Army Capt. Louis S. Tobergte, Marine Corps Capt. Karl J. Watje, Navy Lt. Lawrence E. Burkart, Navy Lt. Lauren M. Hickey, Air Force Capt. Rachel C. Dryhurst, and Coast Guard Lt. Nathan M. Borders. 

Four Marines in combat gear stand together in a group outdoors.
Marine Talk
Marine 2nd Lt. Karl Watje, a logistics officer with Combat Logistics Battalion 5, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, discusses route plans with his squad leaders during Mountain Training Exercise 4-17 at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., Aug. 2, 2017. He is one of the military mentors this year at the United States Senate Youth Program.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Timothy Shoemaker
VIRIN: 170802-M-QQ996-0015

The program's distinguished alumni include Sen. Susan Collins, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, former Sen. Cory Gardner, former U.S. Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Henry, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, and Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. 

More About the Program 

The U.S. Senate Youth Program was established in 1962 by Senate Resolution 324, representing one of the longest standing commitments of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to a national youth program. 

The program has been solely funded and administered since inception by The Hearst Foundations, a national philanthropic resource for organizations working in the fields of culture, education, health and social services.  

As stipulated in SR 324, no government funds are utilized. All program costs, including the $10,000 undergraduate college scholarships given to each of the 104 delegates, are provided by the Hearst Foundations. The program is one of two annual signature programs operated by the Hearst Foundations to encourage America’s best and brightest to enter the fields of journalism and public service. The other is the Journalism Awards Program for college students. 

For additional information about annual DOD support to the U.S. Senate Youth Program, contact the office of the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs community engagement directorate at

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