Frederick teens see inside of politics as Assembly pages
Posted: January 30, 2013
The Winchester Star
RICHMOND — From pushing paper to meeting the governor, three Frederick County eighth-graders are getting a chance to see politics in person.
Chris Demko and Kyle Keenan, both of Adm. Richard E. Byrd Middle School, and James Wood Middle School student Ben Gustafson are serving as pages in the state’s House of Delegates during the current session of the General Assembly in Richmond.
“I think it’s cool seeing it from the inside,” said Ben, who works in the stock room in the IT department. “In school, we see it on paper, but here we get to see it in action and in real life. We’re a part of history, which I think is pretty cool.”
Pages and messengers must have an A or B average in school along with permission from their principal to be accepted into the program. They must also fill out an application, write a 300-word essay on why they want to be a page, and interview with their local delegate or senator.
Pages are assigned to a term of one session. Forty House pages were accepted this year from across the state.
Pages, who are paid $135 dollars per week plus an allowance for expenses, work from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with a half day on Friday. They have one lunch break each day. Study hall is held from 7 to 9 p.m. at night. It’s where they do their school work and create their own bills that they will eventually debate with other pages.
The teenagers will also take trips to the Governor’s Mansion. They have already visited the Virginia War Memorial.
Chris works in committee operations, where he files bills, delivers documents and makes coffee.
“It’s a good job,” he said. “Nice people.”
One of the youths’ most memorable moments came on Jan. 17, when Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, waved an AK-47 assault rifle during a session in support of stricter gun control.
“I think I’ll remember that forever,” Chris said. “It was intense.”
Kyle said one of his favorite moments was meeting Gov. Bob McDonnell and taking a picture with him. The teenager works in the governor’s office copying bills and performing other administrative tasks.
“I would recommend this to anyone who feels they want to make a difference or feels compelled to serve their country,” he said.
Chris said the program has increased his interest in politics.
“Now I actually know what my grandparents are talking about when I go to their house,” he said.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at firstname.lastname@example.org