High school seniors selected as legislative pages
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.