Legislative Page Program: A Wonderful Opportunity for Digital Public School Students

What if students could spend a week at our State Capitol, meeting members of Congress and learning about how our government works, all while getting paid for it?  Guess what, they can!  It’s called the Legislative Page Program, and it’s open to all Washington students from 14-17 years of age. My son, Ian, participated in the program last year and had a tremendous experience!

I found out about the Page Program a few years ago, when Ian and I attended our first Digital Learning Day at the Capitol. Ian was very intrigued by the young people bustling around in their very official looking uniforms, so I inquired about who they were and was told they were part of the Legislative Page Program. I had never heard of this program before, so I did a little research and thought it sounded like a terrific opportunity. When Ian turned 14, he applied for the program and was accepted as a page for the State House of Representatives (students may also page for the Senate).

The Legislative Page Program is open to all Washington State students from 14 to 16 years of age.  An application must be completed, and the student’s school principal must approve the request. Also, a member of the House or Senate must agree to sponsor the student (Rep. J.T. Wilcox was Ian’s sponsor).  Pages are only needed while the Legislature is in session, typically January through April.  Students may only serve as a page for one week and for one time only.  This rule is in place to allow for the maximum number of students to participate from across our state. Because they will be missing a full week of school, they should be in good standing academically and be willing to work hard to make up the missed schoolwork. As a student of the Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA), it was easy for Ian to fit his week of paging into his school schedule; he simply worked ahead in his lessons leading up to his workweek and watched class recordings and completed other schoolwork in the evenings. Coats and name tags are provided, and the rest of the uniform students need to acquire themselves (black slacks, black socks, black shoes that are comfortable for lots of walking, solid black tie, and white button down Oxford-style shirt).

On the Sunday before their workweek begins, pages are required to attend an orientation, where they will learn about their responsibilities, get a tour of the campus, and get fitted for their coats. Students who do not live locally may request to stay with a host family for the week (rates vary). The page work day is from 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pages should expect to spend two hours each day in Page School learning about the legislative process. They will also get to work in small groups to create a bill that they then present in a mock hearing at the end of the week.  Much of their time is spent delivering messages to the offices of the legislators. Ian loved delivering messages because many of the representatives left a dish of candy out for the pages!

Pages get a LOT of exercise, as they are not permitted to use the elevators (unless a physical disability necessitates it).  If they are lucky to be there when the Legislature is actually convening, then they will work the House or Senate floor by helping with opening ceremonies, passing out documents, and delivering messages directly to the legislative members. Sometimes pages are asked to make copies or work in the Capitol gift shop.  Ian spent one afternoon in the gift shop pressing dozens of pennies to be sold in the gift shop - the ones that are stamped with the Capitol logo. Other opportunities may include a tour of the Supreme Court or the Treasury.  Pages are always given a professional photo opportunity with their sponsoring legislator at the end of the week. Pages get paid $35 per day and will receive their paycheck in the mail approximately three weeks later, directly from the Capitol.

Ian has such terrific memories of his paging experience!  He says he felt very important when he was on-campus in his uniform with his official badge.  He enjoyed the privilege of immediately being let into secured areas while accomplishing his errands.  He says that everyone was very friendly and helpful, and that he felt like a real employee. He also enjoyed getting to connect with other students from across the state.  He wishes he could do it again.  Along with his paycheck, he received a beautiful certificate commemorating his service, complete with the Capitol seal on it, which still hangs proudly in his room.

Students who attend digital public schools are in a truly excellent position to participate in the Legislative Page Program, so don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity - check it out!

Page Program Homepage: http://leg.wa.gov/PageSchool/Pages/default.aspx

Paging in Olympia video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjNt5JuL0aY&feature=youtu.be

- Julie Forth, Board Member, Digital Public Schools Alliance