VALDOSTA -- A Valdosta High School senior hopes to represent the Peach State in Washington, D.C., Feb. 26 to March 5.

Nisha Gupta, 17, will travel to Atlanta Friday to participate in final interviews for the 2004-05 U.S. Senate Youth Program. Only one student from each congressional district in Georgia was selected for this segment of the competition.

"I am so excited," said the daughter of Arvind and Sangita Gupta. "The nerves have not hit me yet. I'm sure that'll change Friday morning when it's time for my panel interview."

Gupta was nominated to participate in the Senate Youth Program by one of her teachers. She then had to complete a detailed application and a written test, featuring history and current events questions, and write an essay. She said being selected to represent the Second District made her proud.

In December, Gupta said she will learn whether she was chosen. Only two students from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity will be selected for the Senate Youth Program and awarded a $5,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies. Two alternates also will be named.

"I am very interested in politics and government," she said. "I'd enjoy the opportunity to see our government in action."

At Valdosta High, Gupta serves as student body president; a member of the Debate Team, Y Club, and Student Senate; and president of the Science Club and Beta Club. She serves on Park Avenue Bank's Student Advisory Board and coaches soccer for the Valdosta-Lowndes County Recreation, Parks, and Community Affairs Department.

Gupta dreams of a career in medicine and spends her free time shadowing local physicians. She said she wants to learn as much about the discipline as possible before choosing an area to concentrate her studies on.

The Senate Youth Program is funded annually by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. These private funds pay all expenses for participants, including transportation, hotel accommodations, and meals.

Throughout the week-long program, participants visit the Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court, Pentagon and various museums. They are also able to hear major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials of the departments of state and defense, and others.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call (229) 244-3400, ext. 255.

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