Two middle school students from Loudoun County will get the chance starting next week to work alongside Virginia’s delegates in the state capitol.
Each year, fewer than 100 middle school students between the ages of 13 and 14 are selected from schools around the commonwealth to become pages for Virginia’s 40 senators and 100 delegates during the annual General Assembly session, which will run from Jan. 10 to March 10 this year in Richmond.
This year, two Loudoun eighth-graders were selected for the Virginia House of Delegates Page Program. Jackson Painter from J. Michael Lunsford Middle School and Natalie Daniel from Seneca Ridge Middle School were tapped for the job. The two 13-year-olds were chosen from a pool of 174 applicants to work among a group of 35 House pages.
Every student who applies to the program must get an endorsement from their delegate and also demonstrate maturity and an interest in government.
“We’re looking for things that indicate the student is able to work well in an adult environment,” said Kathy Roberts, coordinator for the House program. “It’s a challenge to narrow down the applicants to just 35, because all of these kids are good students and very active in their communities.”
To boost his résumé and get an edge over the other candidates, Jackson got a recommendation from not only his delegate, then-Del. Jim LeMunyon (D-67), but also state Sen. Richard “Dick” Black (R-13) and House of Delegates Deputy Clerk Scott Maddrea.
“I was prepared on time. I did everything I needed to do and I got a couple more letters of recommendation than needed,” he said.
Aside from recommendations, including one from Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34), Natalie said she had multiple qualities that worked in her favor.
“I feel like I am very, very available to work with other people,” she said. “I am also on the more mature side for my grade.”
The two are going into the program knowing how challenging it will be. Their workdays will begin at 8:30 in the morning and run until 5 p.m., with a lunch break in between. They will be delivering documents throughout the capitol complex and performing errands for delegates and staff during each day’s floor session and at committee meetings.
Some pages will also be selected for assignments in specific House offices, including the speaker’s office, the clerk’s office, the bill room, the copy center and the governor’s office.
Their time in Richmond will give them more than just work experience, too. Jackson and Natalie will both be paid $140 a week on top of the $125 they will get each week to pay for food and other incidentals.
The clerk, information and communications services director, page coordinator, assistant page coordinator and two head pages, who served as pages in 2017, will be Natalie and Jackson’s supervisors.
At the end of the workday, they will return to the Omni Hotel for two hours of unsupervised free time for dinner, followed by a mandatory study hall. Although certified teachers supervise the study hall, it’s up to Jackson and Natalie to communicate with their schools and teachers to find a way to take tests and complete schoolwork.
This arrangement has been a bit easier for Natalie, since her assistant principal previously worked with a student page. “He knew what to expect, I’m very thankful for that,” she said.
On Friday afternoons, the two will head home for the weekend, before returning to Richmond on Sunday evenings.
Jackson hopes that being a page for eight weeks will give him the chance to see first-hand how laws are made. “I’m looking most forward to working on the floor of the House,” he said.
In addition to the typical errands and tasks assigned to each page daily, Natalie is looking forward to the special job she has been assigned—giving tours of the capitol building. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to do a couple of tours every day,” she said.