Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

February 13, 2013

Student DC-bound for teen senate program

Meshnick earns $5,000 scholarship, trip

Judy Wakefield
Staff Writer

---- — On Sunday mornings, local teen Andrew Meshnick can hardly wait for his daily newspaper. He peruses every section, because he enjoys catching up with what's going on in the world.

Wait a minute. Shouldn't Andrew Meshnick, 18 and a senior at Andover High School, be on Facebook, posting photos from the weekend or something? Or excessively texting on his smartphone?

Stereotypical use of technology takes a back seat, as Andrew's Sunday ritual is near and dear to him.

It has also earned him a $5,000 college scholarship and a coveted free trip to Washington, D.C. to take part in the U.S. Senate Youth Program.

This son of a dentist and lawyer is among 104 high school delegates from across the country who will attend "Washington Week" next month. Each year the competitive merit-based program brings 104 top high schoolers together - two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity - for a program focused on how government works. The goal is to get students interested in public service. The Hearst Foundations pays for the all-expenses paid program and the scholarships.

Andrew, also a nightly news devotee who flips between Diane Sawyer and Scott Pelley, said his news-watching and reading habits help him learn more about interesting worldwide issues, which he enjoys. So, when the selection team for this program had him write an essay on the Arab Spring - a series of activities ranging from political protests to civil war that happened in several Arab countries, including Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria - in an hour with no access to the Internet, he aced it.

"I think when a broad number of opinions are presented, it's interesting, and I like to think about all those opinions," Andrew said. "I don't necessarily agree, I just like to learn."

Those varied opinions provide the fuel for some great discussions. That is what he is looking most forward to as he prepares to visit Washington.

"It's a dream trip in a sense," he said. "The views (on political issues) will be very different and there will be some great discussions."

Andrew said he grew up sharing opinions, as his parents encouraged lots of conversation in their house. His father, Howard Meshnick, is a lawyer, and his mother, Lesley Roth, is a dentist. His brother, David, is an eighth-grader at West Middle School.

"We talk a lot. It's who we are," said Andrew, a National Honor Society member and the Andover High School student senate moderator.

He has been an intern at Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas's office for three years and enjoys taking phone calls from constituents and learning how problems are solved.

It might sound as if a political path is definitely in his future - but he said he likes life sciences, too. He's been accepted to Yale University and the University of Massachusetts, but has not made a college decision or a college-major choice yet.

A rower and skiier, he comes across as a mature teen, but clearly balanced. He looks forward to the program and said public service is an option.

"You've got to really listen," he said of public service. "That's how you do it right."