As the state capitol, the political realm of Olympia constantly affects our everyday lives, yet most school-aged citizens don’t know very much about the local government. It can be amazing to witness the process of the legislature first hand, and thanks to the House and Senate Page Programs, many middle and high school students (ages 14 to 16) get the opportunity to do so.
Students that choose to become pages from across the state and right here in Olympia complete an application and reach out to a Senator or Representative to sponsor them throughout their week as a page. Pages are permitted on the floor of the House of Representatives and Senate while bills are being negotiated. They are able to see how the process works in real time.
Former House Page Grace Stickney was excited she took advantage of the opportunity. As a homeschooled sophomore student within the 7th District of Washington she was sponsored by Representative Jacquelin Maycumber. Stickney knew her representative personally and her father has a background in the state government, which is what propelled her to apply to be a page.
While paging for a week, she learned about how the House and Senate worked as well as how a bill gets passed. Aside from learning through experience, she had other page duties as well. “As a page, you deliver notes to Republicans and Democrats alike, work in the cafe or gift shop, or anything they need you to do,” Stickley stated. Working as a page and being in the middle of the action, a page learns not only where everything is, but also how everything works. While paging Stickley noted how fair everything appeared. A bill being passed must get majority vote in both chambers before it can even move on to the next step. Fair and well organized, each step plays an important part in the legislative process. Even the pages. “I would recommend taking part in the paging program because its very educational, you make lifelong friendships and gain an overall respect for what happens at the capitol,” Stickley shared.
Not only do pages help those serving our state as elected officials, they also get to experience it for themselves. Pages are required to attend “page school” for two hours out of their ten hour work day. During page school they learn how to write bills and how a bill becomes a law. As a culminating project, the pages must write their own bill. They research probable problems and write a well worded argument on why their bill is worth a “yes” vote on the floor. When they are finished, they present their bills in front of a mock committee of other pages that vote “Aye” or “Nay” to the bill. Pages get the experience of sponsoring a bill and voting for those of their fellow pages as well.
Senate page Elle Forsberg, a junior at Avanti High School, found herself interested in this program because she would like to learn about how the state government functions. “I want to learn about the way the legislative system works so eventually I can be a successful participant in the electoral process,” Forsberg stated. She will be sponsored by Senator Maureen Walsh during her week as a page. Entering the page program, Elle already feels a sense of respect for the Washington State government due to our state’s advocacy for civil rights and education. She finds herself excited to learn more about the state government. “I would like to expand my knowledge on the politics of our republic,” she shared.
Paging is an enriching opportunity for students who are fascinated with politics or even just those who wish to be more informed about our legislative process as future voters. It can be hard to understand the way this part of government works unless you get to experience it for yourself. Pages get the opportunity to learn so much through this program and through their representatives, information that is important in the real world. Learning more about how the government works and understanding it’s process is vital to becoming an informed citizen. Students living in Thurston County have it even easier as they are right here at home during their page week.