East senior selected for United States Youth Senate Program

Ask anyone in the East High School community how they would describe senior Hannah Tang, and all of their answers include the same word: impressive.
Tang recently added a trip to the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) to her list of A-plus achievements. She was one of two Nebraska high school seniors to travel to Washington, D.C. She spoke with high-ranking federal officials from all three branches of government, visited with the nation’s top diplomat and met fellow delegates from across the country.
Tang said the weeklong trip was full of memorable highlights.
“It was such an incredible experience,” Tang said. “It was one of the most unique opportunities I’ve ever been a part of, so I’m really grateful and blessed to have gotten to go.”

East teachers Josie Gilligan and Nick Herink said they were happy when Tang was selected. Gilligan coaches the school’s Science Bowl and Science Olympiad teams and has worked with Tang for four years. Herink is head speech coach and has watched Tang become a respected and admired team leader.
“Hannah always has an upbeat attitude and is involved in practically everything we offer at East,” Gilligan said. “She’s intelligent, outgoing, empathetic, thorough and is an excellent role model for her peers. I’m constantly in awe of how much she balances and the way she maintains a positive outlook.”
“Hannah is a great role model for Lincoln East because she takes advantage of the many opportunities East has to offer,” Herink said. “She is involved in and leads numerous extracurriculars, enrolls in challenging coursework and gives her all to the school community. High school is short and Hannah has always tried to get everything she can out of the experience.”
Teachers and principals from each state nominated students for the 2024 USSYP. Nominees had to be actively serving in leadership positions of student government or civic organizations at their school. They also had to have a strong academic background.
Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Brian Maher selected Tang and Boone Central senior Isabella Meyer to be Nebraska’s two delegates. Southeast High School senior Amelia-Michelle Nangatie Forlemu and West Point-Beemer senior Jacob Eduardo Dominguez were selected as alternates.
Tang said she was excited when she learned she was picked for the USSYP.
“I was just really shocked, in the best way possible,” Tang said. “It was just such a surreal time, I can’t even explain it. I’ve been involved in speech and debate where I’ve had a political and economics focus, so to be able to go to a program and have that opportunity to meet fellow people who are so passionate about the same things that I am was such a big honor.”

Tang and other delegates toured many federal buildings and historical landmarks. They also met U.S. Senators Pete Ricketts, Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, talked with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and posed questions to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
“It was really amazing to hear their perspectives,” Tang said.
Tang has helped the entire Lincoln community with a resume that includes the titles of cancer researcher, science coach, speech leader and friendly senior. She is founder and president of Nebraska’s first American Cancer Society high school chapter, where she began an initiative to deliver dozens of encouraging letters to patients at local hospitals. She is a member of East’s National Honor Society Advisory Board, is a two-year captain of the Science Olympiad team and is a volunteer coach for Lux Middle School’s Science Bowl program.
Tang has helped many speech teammates by developing a lecture series about politics and economics. She has earned multiple state medals for her work in the extemporaneous speaking category, and she has earned Nebraska Seals of Biliteracy for becoming fluent in both French and Mandarin.
Tang has also been active away from East’s campus. She applied to the Young Nebraska Scientists Program as a sophomore and began working at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that summer. She conducted biology research in the agronomy and horticulture department before moving to a pancreatic cancer research lab.
Tang’s work has been published in “Cancers,” a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and she has presented at the International Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers BigData Conference. She is planning to double major in public health and political science before pursuing graduate and doctorate degrees.
“I want to pursue medicine someday and see how that intersects with policy in our entire government system as a whole,” Tang said. “Being able to research is being able to inquire and seek answers and open doors to new questions, and it’s also being able to see the mechanisms that drive healthcare and medicine firsthand.”

Tang said she has especially treasured her time working with younger Lux scientists. She said it was important to try to give a helping hand to others.
“I really think Science Bowl has changed me a lot as a person and as a scholar,” Tang said. “I wanted to give back to Lux in that way and mentor the future generation.”
Herink said that selfless attitude is why Tang will continue making an impressive difference in the world.
“Hannah really is a great kid, and I think it’s great that she is getting this type of recognition,” Herink said.
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Published: April 4, 2024, Updated: April 5, 2024

East senior Hannah Tang smiles in the high school library this spring. She traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the United States Senate Youth Program. She met federal officials from all three branches of government, visited historical landmarks and met fellow students from across the country.