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Dream big: be a page

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Dream big: be a page

Nina Doody

I first heard about the paging program through an  email from our Dean of Students, Annie Green. I clicked on my email and realized I was the right age, so I took a chance and applied. The application was fairly quick and simple. I had some idea of what the page program was from the website, but did not know exactly what I had gotten myself into.

I applied to page for the Washington State Senate, but you can also apply to be a Washington State House page. While the two programs are similar, they are independent of each other. When you apply to page, you select your congressional district and then select a senator who will chose to either sponsor you, or not.

After I had completed my application I did a little more research and soon became excited about the program. A few weeks later I received a large yellow envelope in the mail from the Washington State Senate. When my mom handed me the packet I said, “Hopefully I didn’t get rejected,” and my mom said “rejections don’t come in big yellow packets.”

When I opened the envelope I was delighted to see an acceptance letter along with two booklets with forms to fill out. I had gotten into the program for the week of February 4. Luckily finals were over and I did not have any major conflicts, so I filled out all the forms and got prepared to go down to Olympia for the week.

The program is available to youth from all across Washington State, so there are some host families that will provide housing for pages. I decided that this would be the best option for me.

The program started on Superbowl Sunday, and I drove from Everett to Olympia. This was my first time to Olympia. After a brief orientation I drove to my host family’s house and was warmly greeted by them.

On my first day of paging I was overwhelmed because the Capitol campus is huge, and the temperature was less than 30 degrees. This was also the first major snowstorm of the year for the area, and the majority of schools were canceled, but we were still there eager to work. After the first few hours, I  got used to the schedule and started to figure out where certain buildings are.

A typical day starts around 7:45 am. You might have page school, a two hour chunk of time dedicated to you learning about the legislative process, in the morning or afternoon. In page school the main project is to represent how a bill becomes a law, and to draft your own bill which will be debated in a mock committee later in the week. Additionally in page school you might hear from guest speakers and take tours around the capitol. I was able to meet the treasurer, which was a great learning opportunity and experience.

After page school there are a few things that you might have been scheduled to do. The most common was “Leg.” Leg is short for Legislature, which means you were to report to the legislative building and run errands for anything the senator might need. Some examples could be running a bill or letter over to a senator’s office or grabbing lunch and delivering it to the senator. While they sound like small tasks, they do not go unappreciated.

Lunch is an hour long and there are many great options for food either on the Capitol or off campus. My personal favorite was the grilled cheese that was served in the Capitol. For the afternoon it was likely you would have “Leg” again, and probably a break in the page room as well. Beyond the normal day the major responsibility for pages is “Floor.” Floor is when the Senate is in session.

During my week of paging the floor met once on Wednesday. The pages’ duties include presenting the flags, the pledge of allegiance, walking a specific floor pattern to pass out papers, and doing anything to that was needed of us. Being on the Floor was a great opportunity to learn about and experience the legislative process first hand, as well as personally meeting the majority of Washington State senators.

Sometime during the week the senator or representative who is sponsoring you will come and take professional photos with you. Most likely you will also have a professional photo with the Lieutenant Governor. These are great opportunities to create memories of your paging experience.

Being a page is tiring, but it is a great experience, making you more aware of how the government functions and encouraging you to be more involved with local and state governments. I would recommend this program to anyone, even if you have no interest in political science or government. It is a great way to connect with people from across Washington state and with your local representatives. My experience talking with a lot of the senators who were once pages inspires me to dream big.

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Dream big: be a page