Braxton Zink

Ketchikan High School's Braxton Zink reads source information during the Public Forum Debate in the in the Drama, Debate and Forensics meet on Dec. 12, 2021 at Kayhi. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Ketchikan High School senior Braxton Zink was selected as one of two student delegates to represent Alaska during the 60th annual "Washington Week" event of the United States Senate Youth program, attending virtually alongside Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.

Zink was chosen as a nominee in the program in November, and his selection as a delegate was announced in a Tuesday press release from the USYP. The nomination process included several essays and interviews.

The second Alaska delegate, Adelaide Poulson, also hails from Southeast, as a student at Sitka High School.

"Adelaide Poulson of Sitka and Braxton Zink of Ketchikan were selected from among the state's top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation who will each also receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study," the release stated.

The "Washington Week" event will be held from March 6 through March 9, and will be virtual — "through a comprehensive and highly interactive virtual education and leadership forum" — due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the USYP information.

Two students from each state, as well as the District Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity, are selected to take part in the program, which first took shape in 1962.

The program is intended to "increase young Americans' understanding of the three branches of government, learn the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and emphasize the vital importance of democratic decision making, not only for America, but for people around the world," according to the release, which quoted senate testimony from the program's inception.

Delegates selected for this year's program all rank within the top 1% of their state's high school junior and senior students.

Zink, who serves as the Kayhi Student Body Association president, Ketchikan Youth Court president and the student representative on the Ketchikan School Board, is the third Kayhi student to have been selected to participate in the program since 2006, following Kiera O'Brien in 2016, Kyleen Luhrs in 2008 and Chelsea Goucher in 2006.

Speaking to the Daily News late Tuesday afternoon, Zink said he learned that he won the spot via email on the day before Thanksgiving.

"It was almost, it was essentially an early Christmas present," he said. "Like, I had spent countless hours working on separate essays, studying for the civics exam and, and preparing for interviews, all of which came in the application process for the USYP."

Before Washington Week begins in March, Zink said he is tasked with creating a video to introduce himself and Alaska. The video can be made solo, but he also had the choice to collaborate with the other Alaska delegate which presented a fun possibility for the students.

"I'm going to be traveling to Sitka this month for a debate meet for my high school and I've contacted her, and we agreed that when I travel up there, then we can do the video about Alaska," Zink said.

Zink said he is looking forward to Washington Week as a chance to meet other students with the same interests in government.

"I think the aspect that I'm most excited for is just being able to see likeminded people and people who are interested in politics and in government, from all across the world," he explained. "Because it's two students from each state .. .and there's going to be 99 other students that have gone through this process and share the same beliefs that I do. And it's definitely going to be an eye-opening experience to talk to these people, to have discussions with them."

"It's definitely been a long road," Zink added. "I'm happy to be in this position."

Both alternates selected for the USYP this year also hailed from Southeast — Leiah Kittams of Petersburg High School and Tahlia Gerger of Juneau-Douglas High School: Kale.