One of the very best and little-known educational opportunities in Virginia is the General Assembly’s page program.
Since 1848, when young people working as pages were first noted in the House and Senate records, the Virginia General Assembly has offered students the opportunity to be an active part of their Commonwealth’s Legislature. Nearly half of all the states in the country have a page program, but Virginia’s program is unique in that the pages work with the House and Senate in Richmond throughout the entire legislative session.
They not only learn how laws are made in our Commonwealth from start to finish, but also come to appreciate the important place Virginia has in American history as they walk the same hallways that the leaders of our fledgling country walked hundreds of years ago.
Through their day-to-day experiences, the pages come to understand the value and impact of the decisions made in our state capitol and to witness first-hand the power individual citizens exert as they personally lobby legislators and testify in support of or in opposition to proposed legislation at committee meetings.
The 40 House pages and 34 Senate pages and messengers participate in several training sessions to prepare them for their work when assigned to legislative committees and when on the floor of each chamber while the members of the respective houses are meeting. Pages write a regular newsletter which is distributed to legislators and general assembly staff, as well as to their families. They visit Richmond’s museums and historic sites, attend a reception at the Governor’s mansion, hear Patrick Henry giving his famous ‘Liberty or Death’ speech across the street from the Capitol in St. John’s Church, and work on community service projects, all the while completing their school assignments with the support of tutors and mandatory evening study halls. At the close of the official legislative session, the pages convene their own mock legislative session, introducing their own bills and debating and voting upon those bills. And finally, the pages take over the House and Senate chambers and pass resolutions thanking their chaperons and particular staff and Members who supported them during the nine week program.
I have had the good fortune to be able to get to know many pages over the past three years, and to encourage them to continue to be leaders when they leave Richmond and return to their hometowns. Without exception, I have been impressed with the character and inquiring intellect of those students selected to participate in the page program. I know that the pages have grown as they learned; and the Delegates and Senators who have worked with them have also grown and learned.
I will be pleased to talk about the page program with any interested middle-school students and their families. Pages must be 13 or 14 years old, have an A or B average and receive written approval apply from her or his school principal. Additional details of the program and application qualifications can be found on the Virginia Legislature website. I do ask prospective applicants who request my recommendation to meet with me for a personal interview—and this meeting is one of the perks of my position as Delegate!
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected].