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Being a Page is a New Chapter in Boy’s Life

January 25, 2012

By Michael Bodine
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – For the next couple of months, 13-year-old Michael Peterson will be abiding by the orders of state legislators rather than listening to his teachers at Forest Middle School in Bedford County.

The eighth-grader from the Bedford County town of Goode joins about 30 other boys and girls in the Virginia House of Delegates’ page program. The opportunity brings a great deal of responsibility: The pages deliver documents to lawmakers and run other errands.

Juggling such duties with schoolwork can be a challenge for any young teen.

Michael Peterson of Goode, a page at the Virginia House this legislative session. (CNS photo by Michael Bodine)

 

“I was nervous, but I wasn’t intimidated,” Michael said. “I knew it would be different and would definitely change things up a bit, but it’s not so bad.”

Michael and his family heard about the page program through a family friend. After sending in his application, complete with an essay describing why he was fit for the job, Michael said they waited about two months before receiving the good news.

What he learned in his civics class last year increased his appreciation of the page experience.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity for the years to come and it would benefit in a lot of ways,” Michael said.

Michael spent the first week of the legislative session attending committee meetings, offering his assistance to the delegates who were present. This week, Michael has been assigned to the floor of the House, which he believes is a more rigorous setting – with more chances to make mistakes.

Pages on the House floor have a longer list of potential duties. For example, they might be asked to go to a delegate’s office and obtain paperwork from a legislative assistant, or to fetch a snack for a delegate.

Helen Hess, coordinator of the page program, said there’s an incentive for bringing food to delegates: Pages often walk away with a tip. Michael receives pins for other acts – a testimony to his work ethic – and he uses them to decorate the front of his blue blazer.

After a workday that begins promptly at 8:30 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m., the pages have a mandatory study hall for two hours every night. Michael said he also occasionally has free time during the day to focus on homework.

Michael receives his homework assignments electronically. He has not had much trouble balancing his schoolwork with his work as a page, but certain subjects can present problems.

“With some classes, like math, it’s difficult. But then other classes, it’s really easy,” Michael said.

The most interesting parts of Michael’s days are his interactions with lawmakers. He has also enjoyed witnessing protests that have taken place at Capitol Square. Hess and the other page coordinators make sure the pages stay away from the demonstrators.

Michael has established good relationships with Delegates Lacey Putney of Bedford and Todd Gilbert of Rappahannock, and he says he is now good friends with most of the pages.

Want to Be a Page? Here’s How

The page program is open to 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls from across Virginia.

Every year, state officials select about 45 young people to serve as pages and messengers in the House and the Senate. Cooperation and a strong work ethic, in both school and at the Capitol, are mandatory.

For information on how to apply to the House of Delegates page program, call 804-698-1619 or email your name and mailing address to pageinfo@house.virginia.gov.

For information about the Senate Page Program, call 888-892-6948 or 804-698-7410 or email information@sov.state.va.us.

Details also can be found on the General Assembly’s website, http://legis.state.va.us. Click on “Capitol Classroom” and then on “Student Programs.”

This CNS article was published by EmporiaNews.com.