High school se­niors se­lected as leg­isla­tive pages

Maryland Independent - - Front Page -

Learn­ing about gov­ern­ment, pol­i­tics and the state leg­is­la­ture ap­pealed to sev­eral Charles County Pub­lic Schools stu­dents who re­cently ap­plied for the 2017 Leg­isla­tive Page Pro­gram.

In­ter­ested high school se­niors take part in a rig­or­ous in­ter­view process in which they have to ex­plain why they are de­serv­ing of one of three spots in the pro­gram. Some stu­dents ap­ply be­cause they are in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing a ca­reer in pol­i­tics af­ter high school, while oth­ers think the ex­pe­ri­ence will pro­vide them with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how the state leg­is­la­ture op­er­ates.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives this school year in­clude Al­ton Pear­son Ben­son of West­lake High School, Chris­tian El­der of La Plata High School and Don­nell John­son, Jr. of Mau­rice J. Mc- Donough High School. Thomas Stone High School se­nior Parker Sabin was cho­sen to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram as the stu­dent al­ter­nate.

Each high school can send up to three can­di­dates to in­ter­view for the op­por­tu­nity. Stu­dent pages will work with the Gen­eral As­sem­bly for two weeks dur­ing the up­com­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion. Stu­dents are as­signed to work with ei­ther the Maryland Se­nate or House of Del­e­gates in An­napo­lis and re­ceive a sta­ple well known among veter­ans of the pro­gram: a blue blazer to sig­nify their role as a stu­dent page.

Du­ties range from de­liv­er­ing mes­sages to staff, dis­tribut­ing ma­te­ri­als and as­sist­ing vis­i­tors to work­ing with staff com­mit­tees and other leg­isla­tive of­fices.

It was dur­ing a field trip to the Maryland Gen­eral As­sem­bly as a fourth grader that Ben­son first be­came cu­ri­ous about the abun­dance of stu­dents in blue blaz­ers on the House floor. As the se­nior class pres­i­dent and for­mer stu­dent mem­ber to the board of ed­u­ca­tion, Ben­son has sev­eral years of stu­dent gov­ern­ment ex­pe­ri­ence and said he ap­plied for the op­por­tu­nity to gain ad­di­tional in­sight into the po­lit­i­cal process.

“I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics and the leg­isla­tive process. I’m ex­cited to gain some in­sight into what our politi­cians do be­hind the scenes,” he said. Al­though he is un­de­cided about his col­lege ma­jor and plans af­ter high school, Ben­son has yet to rule out a fu­ture in pol­i­tics. “Noth­ing is off the ta­ble. Maybe some­day I’ll be on the bal­lot.”

El­der plans to ma­jor in civil en­gi­neer­ing and be­came in­ter­ested in the page pro­gram af­ter learn­ing about the op­por­tu­nity from one of his so­cial stud­ies teach­ers. He said the in­ter­view process was an ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self, as he had to in­ter­view with a large panel of teach­ers and staff and talk at length about why he wanted to par­tic­i­pate. Ap­pli­cants are also re­quired to write an es­say about their in­ter­est in the pro­gram.

El­der said he looks for­ward to learn­ing more about gov­ern­ment. “I rec­og­nized it was a good op­por­tu­nity for me and that not a lot of stu­dents get the chance to par­tic­i­pate. I hope to walk away from the ex­pe­ri­ence with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how the state leg­is­la­ture works,” he said.

Suc­cess­ful stu­dent pages must have an above av­er­age aca­demic record, demon­strated in­ter­est in gov­ern­ment, strong per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence.

John­son is well known as a leader among his class­mates at McDonough and said his ex­pe­ri­ences on the Mock Trial team shaped his in­ter­est in the Leg­isla­tive Page pro­gram. As the stu­dent li­ai­son for McDonough to the board of ed­u­ca­tion, John­son is ex­cited to learn more about gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics. “I am ex­cited for this ex­pe­ri­ence. I re­cently watched a few videos on­line about the pro­gram and hope to learn more about gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics,” John­son said.

Each year, about 105 pages and more than 30 al­ter­nates are cho­sen to rep­re­sent their schools and coun­ties in the pro­gram. Sabin will serve as Charles County’s al­ter­nate and has plans to pur­sue a ca­reer in pol­i­tics af­ter he grad­u­ates.

“I strive to have a fu­ture in pol­i­tics. This ex­pe­ri­ence will give me the back­ground to know if this is the right ca­reer field for me,” Sabin said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Chris­tian El­der

Don­nell John­son

Pear­son Ben­son

Parker Sabin

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